The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi called DMK chief M Karunanidhi on Thursday to stop him leaving Delhi in a huff with his MPs ahead of the swearing in. A day before Manmohan Singh’s new government is sworn in talks between the Congress and its key allies have broken down. The DMK has decided to support the UPA government from outside after the Congress refused to accept its demand for nine ministerial berths including plum Cabinet posts like Railways, Telecom & IT, Power, Surface Transport and Health.
The DMK with 18 MPs, the third largest constituent in the UPA coalition, wanted nine ministries while the Congress was willing to give only seven. “The Congress formula is not acceptable to us”, DMK leader T R Baalu told reporters after talks between the two sides. Baalu announced the breakdown of talks after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called up DMK chief M Karunanidhi who conveyed his rejection of the Congress proposal. How ever Congress has said that everything is still a part of the discussion process and nothing untoward is going to happen.
Congress was ready for status quo in DMK’s ministries. It was also ready to release telecom ministry to DMK, which earlier it did not want to give it to its southern ally. DMK chief Karunanidhi’s son M K Azhagiri, his grand nephew Dayanidhi Maran and T R Baalu are among the Cabinet probables from the party while his daughter Kanimozhi is among the likely candidates for the MoS slot. Other UPA ally Trinamool Congress was also doing hard negotiations to get plum portfolios as Manmohan Singh gets ready to be sworn in on Friday for a second consecutive term as Prime Minister.
However, among the ‘big four’ portfolios Finance is likely to go to Pranab Mukherjee, while Home and Defence would be retained by P Chidambaram and A K Antony. There is no finality about who will bag External Affairs for which names of Kamal Nath and Kapil Sibal are doing the rounds. A scheduled meeting of the Prime Minister with President Pratibha Patil on Thursday morning, which was later put off, fuelled speculation that there could be a deadlock over ministry formation. But sources said that the meeting had nothing to do with government formation.
Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee held third round of talks with Congress leaders but dismissed suggestions that she was bargaining hard for key ministries.
“There is no talk of bargaining (for ministerial posts). …. We have not discussed this. What they (Congress) want, they will do. Even if they don’t give us anything, we don’t mind,” Banerjee told reporters.
However, sources said the party is keen on Railways, Coal and Mines and Steel portfolios which, it feels, are critical to West Bengal economy. It was also eyeing the portfolios of Health and Home Affairs at the Minister of State level. Both Dinesh Trivedi and Mukul Roy are the front- for Cabinet positions from the Trinamool Congress. The party is understood to be expecting at least two berths in Union Cabinet and three Ministers of State. While the Congress had suggested that the ministry formation could be done in two phases, the allies insisted that the exercise be completed in one go