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UPA allies bargain hard for Cabinet berths.

Byline: Nilofar Suhrawardy

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had to defer his meeting with President Pratibha Patil, which was scheduled for yesterday morning, as pulls and pressures from allies, on the formation of the new Cabinet were not resolved till then.

A day before Manmohan was due to be sworn in as India's 18th prime minister, key allies wrangled over ministerial jobs yesterday.

The Tamil Nadu's Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, a pre-election ally of the Congress and member of the outgoing United Progressive Alliance government, said, after a day of hard negotiations, that for the moment it would opt to remain out of government but would support Manmohan in Parliament.

Congress party spokesman Janrdhan Dwivedi said negotiations were still on and the DMK had offered outside support. "We wanted a status quo. They would not accept and wanted more," Dwivedi said of the negotiations with the DMK.

Talks were also ongoing with the Trinamool Congress of West Bengal, to come to an understanding, Congress sources said. The Congress won 206, the Trinamool Congress 19 and the DMK 18 seats in the Lok Sabha or lower house of Parliament in the recently concluded general elections.

Differences prevailed on DMK insistent on being given three Cabinet rank posts.

According to a top government source, the Congress party-led UPA's key allies that included the DMK (which won 18 seats) and the Trinamool Congress (19) intensified their demand for more ministerial positions than they had been offered.

The DMK has reportedly sought seven posts, including four Cabinet portfolios, while the Trinamool Congress (TMC) wanted six.

Highly placed sources said that DMK chief M. Karunanidhi's wish list included Cabinet posts for his son M.K. Azhagiri, daughter Kanimozhi, grand-nephew Dayanidhi Maran and Helen Davidson, the only woman elected from Tamil Nadu in the just-concluded Lok Sabha polls.

The DMK is making a bid for key ministries including surface transport, railways, IT and communications and tourism.

Veteran Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee, who is spearheading discussions with the DMK, has already had a "lengthy session" with Karunanidhi once and will be meeting him again to firm up the ministerial berths.

TMC leader Mamata Banerjee who is eyeing the railways portfolio for herself is also keen on coal and mines and civil aviation ministries. Party insiders said Dinesh Trivedi, Sudip Bandopadhyay, Sultan Ahmed and Mukul Roy of the TMC are likely to become ministers.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:May 22, 2009
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