M A I N   N E W S

DMK ministers stay away from office
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 24
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) ran into rough weather on the first day itself when seven DMK ministers refused to attend office to protest the non-allocation of portfolios promised to them.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to DMK chief M. Karunanidhi in this connection and is learnt to have sought time till the end of the Parliament session to redress the grievances. Party leaders here were confident that the crisis would blow over as the DMK had assured them that it would not withdraw support to the government.

At the same time, Dayanidhi Maran, DMK representative in the Capital, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi to find a way out. Mr Maran is learnt to have been assured that their party’s request on portfolio allocation will be met when the Cabinet is expanded next.

The DMK, it is stated, is upset that the Surface Transport Department, which has been allocated to them, has been pared by creating a separate Shipping Department, which has gone to the Telegana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS). The party also wants its nominee to be appointed Minister of State in the Finance Ministry or in the Home Ministry.

Mr Karunanidhi has cited a letter from Congress leader Janardhan Reddy promising certain portfolios to the DMK. Congress leaders, however, maintain that the party is unaware of any such letter and that it has actually come as a surprise to them.

Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, who is also AICC in charge of Tamil Nadu, and a host of senior leaders were involved the whole day in resolving the crisis. While maintaining that discussions with the DMK were on, Mr Kamal Nath stated categorically that there would be no further inductions into the Council of Ministers.

“There are so many allies and partners in a coalition. All demands of the partners cannot be met and this has got to be understood by the allies,” Mr Kamal Nath told reporters today. He was also quick to add that the Congress and the DMK shared a cordial relationship and that the problem would be sorted out.

In addition to dealing with the DMK’s tantrums, the Congress also had to contend with rumblings within its own ranks over the allocation of ministries. With the exception of few Congress leaders like Shivraj Patil, Mani Shankar Aiyer and Ghulam Nabi Azad, most others were clearly unhappy with their new assignments.

Congress members were baffled with the allocation of Defence portfolio to Pranab Mukherjee, who was tipped to be given Home Ministry. There was simmering resentment that Shivraj Patil, who was defeated in the recent elections, had been entrusted with the all-important Home Ministry.

They were particularly perturbed that the two leaders, who had never fought the NDA aggressively and constantly advised caution on the George Fernandes-boycott issue, were now at the forefront of the new government. They were equally bewildered that two of the three Parliamentary Affairs Ministers — Ghulam Nabi Azad and Suresh Pachouri — should be from the Rajya Sabha.

Party insiders maintained that Mr Kapil Sibal was unhappy over being given the relatively low-profile Ocean Development Department, while Mr Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi was apparently ill at ease with the Technical Water Resources Ministry. He would have been more at home handling a portfolio where his political acumen could have been utilised.

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