The Congress on Saturday appeared ready to accommodate the nominees of the DMK in the Union Cabinet. This followed a meeting between senior Congress leader and Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president M. Karunanidhi.
However, the DMK remains divided on whether to press for more berths in the Ministry or maintain the status quo without seeking replacements for A. Raja and Dayanidhi Maran, who had resigned following charges of their involvement in the 2G spectrum allocation scam.
The issue was discussed when Mr. Mukherjee spoke to Mr. Karunanidhi at the latter's Gopalapuram residence here, according to a senior Congress leader. Mr. Mukherjee had gone on record saying that the alliance between the two parties would be strengthened, the Congress leader pointed out, and added that the Congress would merely go along with the DMK chief's choice of candidates for inclusion in the Cabinet.
A couple of DMK leaders said they were unaware of the nature of the discussions between Mr. Karunanidhi and Mr. Mukherjee. According to a source, Mr. Karunanidhi's daughter and DMK Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi, who is now in jail, is against seeking additional berths till she is cleared of charges. However, his son and DMK Legislature Party leader M.K. Stalin sees things differently, and would like the party to stake its claim to fill the “vacancies” caused by the exit of the DMK's original nominees.
Mr. Mukherjee spent nearly one hour with the DMK president. For about 15 minutes, they had a closed-door meeting.
Later, the Union Minister, who arrived in Chennai on Friday night, told journalists that there was a lot of speculation whether the alliance (between the Congress and the DMK) was continuing or not. “The alliance is there. It will continue and will be strengthened,” he said.
Unwilling to attach any significance to the meeting ahead of the likely Cabinet reshuffle at the Centre, Mr. Mukherjee said he had come to Chennai after the Assembly election. Whenever he was in Chennai, he would meet Mr. Karunanidhi to discuss the political situation.
Mr. Mukherjee declined to take any questions on the nature of talks with Mr. Karunanidhi. Among those present during the discussion between the DMK leader and the Union Minister were DMK Parliamentary Party Leader T.R. Baalu, Mr. Maran, Union Minister V. Narayanasamy, Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president K.V. Thangkabalu and the former State Minister, Durai Murugan.