New Delhi:The Congress got its main opposition to ease months of relentless pressure on the government, but was unable to rid the strain in its equation with its Tamil Nadu ally.
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The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) on Saturday announced its decision to withdraw unconditional support to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government over a dispute on sharing seats for the assembly polls in Tamil Nadu on 13 April. The two parties were unable to reach a solution on Monday.
After finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, the chief interlocutor between the two sides, met DMK leader and Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi, the southern party said it has decided to hold its withdrawal of support for one more day as the Congress has sought more time to reach a solution.
Estranged partners: Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee ( left), DMK leaders M. Karunanidhi (middle) and Dayanidhi Maran.
Karunanidhi has indicated his party would not give more than 60 seats to the Congress to contest in the election to the 234-member assembly, said a DMK leader who declined to be identified.
The DMK claimed on Saturday that Congress’ demand for more seats forced it to decide to snap ties with the national party. The DMK threatened to withdraw its two cabinet and four junior ministers in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government and to extend only “issue-based” support.
The Congress, which had initially bargained for 90 seats, stuck to its final demand for 63 seats.
Three Congress leaders said on condition of anonymity that the party would not oblige to pressure by its ally, unlike in earlier instances.
DMK leader and former telecom minister A. Raja is in jail for his alleged role in the irregular allocation of second-generation telecom spectrum in 2007-08. Singh had said the alleged scam was a consequence of coalition politics.
The DMK has 18 crucial members in the 543-member Lok Sabha.
Political analysts have said that breaking ties with the Congress would only damage the electoral prospects of the DMK in Tamil Nadu, where an alliance of former chief minister J.Jayalalithaa’s All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam with actor Vijayakanth’s Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam poses a formidable challenge.
A section of Congress leaders including party general secretary Rahul Gandhi prefers severing ties with the DMK, said one Congress leader, who did not want to be identified.
On another front, the Congress got a reprieve from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), its main opposition, after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh admitted in Parliament that the appointment of P.J. Thomas as chief vigilance commissioner, quashed by the Supreme Court last week, was an “error of judgement”.
Singh’s 21-month-old coalition government has been battling a series of corruption charges and criticism of its actions by the apex court.
The government had appointed Thomas, charged for his alleged role in the fraudulent imports of palm oil from Malaysia when he was a civil servant in Kerala in the 1990s, on 7 September despite a dissent note from the Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj.
“Obviously, there was an error of judgement. I accept full responsibility for it,” Singh told the Lok Sabha after Swaraj nudged him that his written statement, which he read out, did not reflect that he was owning up the responsibility of the lapse.
Prakash Javadekar, a BJP spokesperson, said the issue can be laid to rest as the CVC appointment has been cancelled and the Prime Minister had acknowledged his mistake. “As far as CVC is concerned, we have always said the Prime Minister should apologise, and by admitting there was an error of judgement on his part, he has acknowledged it,” he said.
Left parties were not satisfied by Singh’s statement. Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Basudeb Acharia said the Prime Minister should explain how the error occurred. When there was no response to this, the Left members staged a walkout.
Ruhi Tewari contributed to this story.