Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Congress, DMK preparing to shake hands again?

2011-03-07 21:30:00
Last Updated: 2011-03-07 21:49:00

 Tamil Nadu's ruling DMK and the Congress were locked in hectic negotiations on Monday to put their seven-year alliance back on track, with DMK's ministers holding back for a day their decision to quit the central government after the two parties clashed over sharing of seats in next month's assembly elections.

Leaders of both parties admitted that they were holding talks at various levels to bridge their differences and, if possible, contest the April 13 elections to the 234-member Tamil Nadu assembly together.

Congress leader and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee spoke to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi twice on the telephone while other Congress leaders met the DMK's central minister Dayanidhi Maran in New Delhi, said sources in both parties.

Neither side was willing to provide details. But Tamil Nadu's Deputy Chief Minister M.K. Stalin said Mukherjee had requested the DMK to wait for one more day before taking a final call.
'We have decided to wait till tomorrow (Tuesday),' said Stalin, the younger son of the chief minister who played a key role in Saturday's dramatic DMK decision to pull out of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government and to dump the Congress, its ally since 2004.

Speculation was rife that the Congress and the DMK might finally bury the hatchet -- with mutual give and take.

One view in the DMK is that the party would not give the Congress more than 60 seats to contest -- the number over which the breaking point came. Some, however, said that the DMK might relent and agree to the Congress demand for 63 seats, if necessary by taking away three seats from the PMK, its other ally.

Repeated attempts by IANS to reach PMK president G.K. Mani proved futile.
The DMK has six ministers in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. Its decision to dump the Congress had left the latter high and dry ahead of the one-day election in Tamil Nadu where politics is still dominated by the DMK and its arch rival, the AIADMK.

In New Delhi, Congress leaders Mukherjee, Health Minister and Tamil Nadu in-charge Ghulam Nabi Azad, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Ahmed Patel, political secretary to the Congress president, met in the afternoon in the Parliament house to deliberate a possible compromise.
'I think the matter will be definitely sorted out by Wednesday. If it is not sorted out in a day or so, it will be worrying,' a senior Congress leader said.
He said neither party can afford to prolong the impasse since the AIADMK-led alliance was itching to give a tough fight.


Some Congress sources, however, insist that the DMK muscle flexing had little to do with the seats in contention but was aimed at sidetracking investigation into the spectrum corruption scandal that has led to the arrest and jailing of former DMK communications minister A. Raja.
The DMK is also upset over the raids conducted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on the office of Kalaignar TV, which is owned by the family of the chief minister, and hints that the CBI may now interrogate Karunanidhi's daughter and Rajya Sabha member K. Kanimozhi.
The DMK ministers were scheduled to meet Manmohan Singh at 6 p.m. Monday to tender their resignations.

The DMK has two cabinet ministers -- Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister M.K. Alagiri and Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran - and four junior ministers - S.S. Palanimanickam (Finance), S. Jagathrakshakan (Information and Broadcasting), D. Napoleon (Social Justice and Empowerment) and S. Gandhiselvan (Health and Family Welfare) -- in the UPA government.
On Sunday, the Congress did not make any apparent moves to salvage the alliance. But the picture changed on Monday.

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