DMK relents, agrees on 3 Cabinet berths

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: May 25 2009, 07:15am hrs
Three days after it threw a tantrum over insufficient Cabinet berths and walked out of the UPA, the DMK has reconciled and agreed to join the Manmohan Singh government.

The southern ally, which is the third largest party in the ruling alliance with 18 MPs, has decided to accept the Congress leaderships compromise formula of three Cabinet berths and four junior ministerial berths, UPA sources said on Sunday.

As part of the deal, the DMK is understood to have proposed the candidatures of party supremo M Karunanidhis son MK Azhagiri, his grand-nephew Dayananidhi Maran and A Raja as Cabinet ministers. Former surface transport minister TR Baalu, who lost out in the race, is likely to be accommodated as deputy speaker of the Lok Sabha.

Karunanidhis daughter Kanimozhi, who became a Rajya Sabha member last year, is expected to be inducted as a minister of state with independent charge, while three others will get ministerial berths at the junior-most level.

The problem is resolved. We are joining the government, Arcot Veeraswami, a senior DMK leader, told news agencies on Sunday. An official announcement is likely to be made on Monday, which was also acknowledged by Kanimozhi.

According to political circles, Raja is likely to get the IT and communication portfolio that he held earlier, while Azhargiri was tipped to get chemical and fertilisers. Maran, on the other hand, is expected to get the textiles portfolio and Kanimozhi may be asked to take charge of women and child development.

UPA managers here said the renewed offer of giving the DMK seven ministerial berths, as in the previous government, was conveyed to Karunanidhi on Saturday night with a list of probable portfolios. The only change done was to restrict the number of senior ministers to three. The DMK had demanded nine ministerial berths for its representatives.

Karunanidhi reportedly told Pranab Mukherjee and Ghulam Nabi Azad, who have been handling the negotiations with the DMK, that he would get back to the Congress leadership after holding consultations within his party. The DMK leadership, therefore, spent most of its Sunday talking to senior party leaders at the chief ministers residence in Chennai.

The Congress leaderships reasoning about the offer was also conveyed by national security advisor MK Narayanan, who called on the Tamil Nadu chief minister, essentially to brief him about developments in Sri Lanka. The settlement with the DMK will also pave the way for announcement of portfolios of the remaining Cabinet ministers who took oath along with the Prime Minister on May 22. On Saturday, portfolios of only six ministers were announced.

The swearing in of the DMK representatives is expected to take place on Tuesday, when Prime Minister Singh has scheduled an expansion of his team in which as many as 40 ministers are expected to be inducted.