Pranab says alliance intact, offers DMK two berths
Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee called on DMK chief M Karuananidhi at his residence.
Chennai: Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday sought to dispel speculation on the simmering tension between Congress-DMK alliance was under strain, asserting that the alliance would continue and gain strength in future.
"The alliance is there, the alliance will continue and it will be strengthened", Mukherjee told reporters following an hour-long meeting with Karunanidhi at his residence here.
It was during the meeting, Mukherjee is believed to have offered two vacated cabinet berths to the DMK, but DMK chief M Karunanidhi has reportedly expressed reluctance to accept it, at least for the time being.
Karunandhi has conveyed to the Congress leadership that a decision on it can be taken only at the party`s General Council meeting on July 23-24 in Coimbatore where the DMK is expected to review the political situation in the aftermath of the electoral debacle, including its relations with Congress.
According to DMK sources, senior party leader TR Baalu, AKS Vijayan and spokesperson TKS Elangovan could be possible replacements for Maran and Raja.
DMK sources also said there is a feeling in the party that it should not be seen to be in a hurry to send replacements into the Cabinet.
Mukherjee, while talking to reporters was tightlipped on what transpired following talks between him and Karunanidhi and parried a question whether DMK`s replacements in the Cabinet was discussed.
Pranab told reporters that he discussed the current political situation with DMK chief, adding it was his practice to meet coalition partner Karunanidhi whenever he came to Chennai.
Also present at the meeting was Dayanidhi Maran, who quit as Union Textiles Minister on Thursday after CBI implicated him in the 2G scam.
The Congress-DMK relationship has been under strain ever since Raja was forced to quit the government on 2G issue and his subsequent arrest, followed by the arrest of Karunanidhi`s daughter Kanimozhi in the same case.
Hectic consultations are on at the highest levels in the government and UPA to bring a new look to the 25-month-old UPA-II government battered by a series of corruption scandals.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the third time in more than a fortnight and is understood to have given finishing touches to the restructuring exercise.
Reports suggested that there will be no change or any drop of the `Big Four` ministers - Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister AK Antony, Home Minister P Chidambaram and External Affairs Minister SM Krishna.
With Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee pronouncing the party`s desire to retain the Railways Ministry, Mukul Roy or Dinesh Trivedi, both ministers of state may make it to the Rail Bhavan.
There was also speculation of RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav making it to the Union Cabinet this time. He is reported to have held talks with senior Congress leaders on the issue.
With PTI inputs