DMK reviews plans, Manmohan hopes it would be back


New Delhi/Chennai : Even as sulking DMK leaders Friday held strategy meetings in Chennai after the deadlock over allocation of ministerial berths, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, soon after his swearing-in ceremony, hoped that better sense would prevail.

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“They are our valued colleagues. They will come back,” Manmohan Singh told reporters confidently, ahead of an expansion of his cabinet next week.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, his eldest son M.K. Azhagiri and other senior DMK leaders like T.R. Baalu and Arcot Veeraswami had returned from New Delhi to Chennai after inconclusive talks over ministerial berths to their party.

But they instructed party MPs to stay back in New Delhi and attend the swearing-in ceremony. Former minister A. Raja of the DMK was present at the Rashtrapati Bhawan Friday evening as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh along with 19 cabinet colleagues took oath of office.

Karunanidhi left for Chennai Friday morning, saying the DMK would give only outside support to the Congress-led government.

“We will give outside support to the central government as the formula given by the Congress has to be discussed at the party’s executive council meeting,” DMK chief Karunanidhi told reporters at Delhi airport before leaving.

However, the Congress continued to be a “friend”, said Baalu who left the national capital to reach Chennai early in the morning after talks between the two failed Thursday night.

“The Congress is a friend and the DMK MPs will attend the swearing-in ceremony of the Manmohan Singh government in Delhi Friday evening,” he said at Chennai airport.

The DMK, it was learnt, was seeking nine ministerial berths – five cabinet-rank and four ministers of state (MoS). But the Congress, sources said, was not ready to give more than three cabinet-rank positions and four MoS posts.

Asked if the DMK’s wishes would be granted, Congress spokesperson Janardhan Dwivedi told reporters in New Delhi: “There is a solution to every problem.”

He denied speculation that the Congress objected to accommodating former ministers Baalu and Raja in the ministry and said: “We have nothing to do with individuals. It is the party’s (DMK) prerogative to choose its representatives.”

The negotiations were still on, a Congress leader told IANS.

Congress sources said the party would send its general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad to Chennai to mollify the DMK, which has contributed 18 seats to the United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) kitty of 322 – including outside support from the Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).

Congress spokesperson Nedurumalli Janardhana Reddy said in Chennai Thursday evening: “Whatever we proposed, they did not accept and wanted more. So they said they will support from outside, but it does not mean that dialogue with them is over. We are still discussing with them.”

Thursday night’s talks included senior Congress leaders like Pranab Mukherjee and Ghulam Nabi Azad. Karunanidhi led the DMK team, assisted by Baalu, Veeraswamy, Dayanidhi Maran and others.

There had been a similar deadlock in 2004, when within 48 hours of the UPA ministry being sworn in, the DMK threatened to pull out its nominees on the ground that the promised portfolios were not allotted to its members.