The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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3:1 formula to share spoils

New Delhi, May 16: The Congress is working on a 3:1 formula to share berths with existing and potential partners.

The party is likely to stake claim to 50-odd portfolios while 25 have been earmarked for its pre-poll allies that together have 74 MPs.

Under a legislation that limits the number of ministers, the Union government can have up to 80 ministries. If Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party or Mayavati’s Bahujan Samaj Party or both decide to join the government, the ratio would be altered accordingly.

Congress sources said the party has requested the CPM to let Somnath Chatterjee be the Speaker of the new Lok Sabha. The Congress is hopeful that the CPM, even if it stays away from the government, would react favourably to the appeal.

A question mark has crept up on Sharad Pawar’s induction into the cabinet. Pawar is keen on defence or an equally important ministry but the Congress is lukewarm as such a course would draw similar demands from parties like the RJD and the DMK which has promised to join the ministry later. The RJD has 21 MPs against the NCP’s nine.

Sonia Gandhi, however, is leaving nothing to chance. She waited at the 10 Janpath portico to receive M. Karunanidhi. The gesture — usually reserved for leaders like V.P. Singh, Chandra Shekhar and Sharad Pawar – moved the ageing and ailing Karunanidhi.

As “home-made coffee” was served, the Kaliangar spoke in a measured voice, recalling his deep association with Indira Gandhi. “I am a man of words. I will stand by you under all circumstances,” he told Sonia.

Karunanidhi said association with the Congress always brought him “luck”. “We had joined hands in 1980 when Sanjay (Gandhi) had come with Kamal Nath,” he recalled. Nath is now AICC general secretary in charge of Tamil Nadu.

Sonia requested Karunanidhi to let the DMK join the government. Karunanidhi said he would but needed more time and cited “local problems”. Sources said Karunanidhi, looking for signs that could spell the end of the Jayalalithaa regime, wants to wait and avoid a scramble for portfolios.

Karunanidhi then brought out the DMK letter to the President that pledged support to a government to be formed under “Sonia Gandhi’s leadership”.

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