With less than 24 hours to go before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh takes oath for his second term in office, Congress talks with the Dravida Munetra Kazhagham (DMK) broke down on Thursday evening.
Congress leaders were still attempting to resuscitate the alliance late on Thursday, after the allies came to loggerheads over ministerial berths sought by the southern ally.
According to media reports citing Congress insiders, the DMK seeks control of plum infrastructure ministries, but it was offered Labour, Food Processing and Textile portfolios.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi stepped in and spoke to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi to resolve the matter.
Throwing a tantrum the DMK says it will extend “outside support” to the new government and would sit out of the Ministry rather than accepting the same number of ministerial berths it held in the last government.
Many believe that the DMK arm twisting was not befitting of iots status as a constituent of the country’s ruling alliance.
After DMK leaders dug in their heels over the issue, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party leader and Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi spoke over the telephone.
DMK leader TR Baalu announcing the breakdown of talks with the Congress said the formula put on offer by the UPA principal was not acceptable.
Without divulging details of what transpired between Singh and Karunanidhi, he said the party executive council would meet in Chennai on Friday to decide the future course of action.
Though, the Congress remained nonchalant over the DMK decision, party media in-charge, Janardan Dwivedi, said talk would continue.
“We had proposed status quo; they wanted more. We felt their demands were too much. This does not mean the dialogue has stopped. They are still our allies.”
Incidentally, a similar standoff had taken place between the two parties in 2004, but later the DMK saw reason and relented with support to the government,. This time around the Congress is on a safer footing as the DMK state government in Tamil Nadu depends on it for crucial support.
The DMK is seeking five cabinet seats for former Union Ministers, A Raja and Mr. TR Baalu, apart from MK. Azhagiri and Kanimozhi, and Dayanidhi Maran. The Tamil party also wants four MoS berths.
Already facing flak for its own dynastic traditions, the Congress finds the demand unacceptable as both Azhagiri and Kanimozhi are Karunanidhi’s children while Maran is his grand-nephew.
The grand-old-party had already taken up the matter with Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, who was hoping on a ministerial berth for his daughter Supriya Sule.
Though, neither of the two sides disclosed details top Sonia Gandhi aides, Pranab Mukherjee, AK Antony and Ahmed Patel held talks with NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel.
Both Pawar and Patel were ministers in the outgoing government and are expected to hold key portfolios when the list of ministers is finally announced on Friday.
The Congress also held a fresh round of talks with Trinamool Congress chief Mamta Banerjee, who is said to have earned the Railway portfolio for herself and several other ministerial berths.
Neither the Congress nor the Bangla firebrand responded to media speculation of the Trinamool leader seeking President’s rule in West Bengal.