Congress Party Gets Tough with Coalition Partners

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May 23 – In signs that the newly elected Congress Party is now in a position to properly govern in the manner it sees fit, party leaders have rejected demands by the strong allied party DMK for ministerial seats in return for coalition support.

Although Congress currently holds the most seats, it is 11 short of an overall majority. Consequently, it needs support from a select handful of allied parties, with the DMK being strategically important in the Tamil Nadu region, which includes the important port city of Chennai.

However, DMK demands have proven too much for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, whose comment that he had to “run a government” and also “worry about its effectiveness” immediately set the tone.

The DMK demanded key ministerial positions in infrastructure related ministries, seen as highly influential as India’s spending on domestic infrastructure is likely to skyrocket in the wake of the election results.

Congress had countered that the DMK members that had been put forward for the positions were not experienced enough. These also included positions for immediate family members of DMK party head, M. Karunanidi. Karunanidi, in an apparent fit of pique, immediately left Delhi and returned to Chennai empty handed, although it is understood the door has not fully closed on some form of DMK participation, it will be on the Congress Party’s terms.

The development demonstrates the strong position the Congress Party is now in and indicates at an early stage that this government is likely to prove strong and is able to dictate its own terms.