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Ministry formation threatens Cong-JDS tieup

June 03, 2004 14:44 IST

The process of ministry expansion in Karnataka has run into rough weather following differences between the two coalition partners, the Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular, over the allocation of plum portfolios. However, a consensus was likely to emerge by this evening, a top JD-S leader said.

Talks between the two parties in New Delhi hit a roadblock yesterday after Congress leaders expressed reservations
over sharing portfolios like in Maharastra, where the party is in a tieup with the Nationalist Congress Party, a stand that has reportedly irked former prime minister and JD-S chief H D Deve Gowda.

Gowda's son H D Kumaraswamy told PTI on the phone from New Delhi that while it was the Congress that had insisted on following the Maharashtra model in government formation and sharing of portfolios, some of its leaders were now going back on the terms agreed upon earlier.

In Maharashtra, while the Congress is leading the government as a bigger partner, the deputy chief ministership has been
allotted to the NCP, and both parties share key portfolios on the basis of an agreement.

The Congress wants to retain key portfolios like finance, home and power which, Kumraswamy said, was a breach of the agreement between them.

Kumaraswamy made it clear that there were no differences within his party on expanding the ministry and it was prepared to go in for a one-time exercise, unlike the Congress which wants to do it in instalments.

Gowda has also hardened his stand in the meantime, saying he would not take the lead in reopening talks with the Congress. "Let the Congress decide what it wants to do and come to us. I don't want to meet anyone," he said.

JD-S sources said Gowda had told the All India Congress Committee general secretary incharge of Karnataka, Vilasrao Deshmukh, and Congress President Sonia Gandhi's political secretary Ahmed Patel to take a decision and inform him accordingly.

Sources said the JD-S chief does not want to budge from his earlier stand that the Congress should honour its
word on following the Maharashtra model, and any retraction would force him to walk out of the government.

Gowda had indicated to the Congress that in such an eventuality, his party would not join the ministry but extend outside support.

Sources said the Congress suggested that as a first instalment, five ministers would be inducted from each side, which the JD-S rejected. Gowda's party either wants the expansion to be completed in one go or in two instalments with 10 ministers from each side taking oath now.

Meanwhile, sources close to Chief Minister N Dharam Singh, who has been camping in New Delhi for five days to break the deadlock, said he was hoping to find a solution soon.

In tune with an agreement reached between the two parties, a Congress-led coalition government was installed in the state on May 28 with Singh as chief minister and the JD-S's Siddaramaiah as deputy chief minister.

If both the parties reach a settlement, the new ministers are expected to be sworn in on Saturday.

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