DMK ministers quit UPA government

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Chennai, March 5: In a dramatic culmination to a tense day, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham has withdrawn support to the United Progressive Alliance government at the Center.

In a statement, the party said it would provide “issue based support” to the Manmohan Singh-led government. Meanwhile, the party has asked its ministers to resign from the Federal Cabinet.

A strongly worded resolution passed at the end of a high-level DMK meeting said “The Congress does not want us to continue in the alliance. The Congress attitude does not help for an amicable poll accord. The Congress demand for 63 seats in spite of (us) giving 60 clearly shows they don`t want us in the alliance. In this situation, the DMK doesn`t want to continue in theCabinet. Hence we have decided to pull out,” the resolution said.

DMK chief M Karunanidhi said he was surprised by the Congress attitude, and said the Congress demands led him to suspect that the Congress was trying to remove the DMK from the UPA.

The two parties had been locked in intense negotiations all day on the question of seat sharing for the upcoming Tamil Nadu assembly polls on April 13. With Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who has charge of the state, playing front man, the Congress dug its heels in and demanded 63 seats, against the 60 the DMK was prepared to offer.

The DMK has already completed its seat sharing talks with other allies such as the Pattali Makkal Katchi, Vidhuthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, Indian Union Muslim League and the Muvendar Munnetra Kazhagham. With the Election Commission announcing a single-phase poll for the state, a mere 16 days remain for the filing of nominations.

Union Minister P Chidambaram is understood to be rushing to Chennai to try and break the deadlock. Earlier in the day, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee admitted to strains in the DMK-Congress relationship, but said the dispute over seat sharing could be resolved. “In our political relationship, we have some problems sometimes. We have the capacity to create problems and at the same time solve them, and it will be solved,” he said.

Terming the Congress demands “unjustifiable”, Karunanidhi said “We decided to give 60 seats to Congress and conveyed this to Ghulam Nabi Azad. Instead of signing the agreement, the Congress called today and demanded for 63 seats on the phone and that too all of their choice. Is this fair? Is it practical for the Congress to demand 63 seats and expect them to be given?”

The meeting where the decision to pull out of the UPA government was taken contained, besides the DMK chief, Deputy Chief Minister and Karunanidhi`s son M.K. Stalin, his other son and central minister M.K. Azhagiri, and former central ministers T.R Baalu and Dayanidhi Maran.

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