UPA busy controlling damage after DMK pull-out

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Chennai/New Delhi, March 19: A beleaguered UPA government was engaged in damage control on Tuesday night after its second largest constituent, the DMK, announced to pull out of the Cabinet and the coalition over the issue of Sri Lankan Tamils, a move that makes the government vulnerable despite its assertions of having a parliamentary majority.

Pressing ahead with its demand that India should push for amendments to a US-sponsored resolution in UN Human Rights Council so that it calls for an independent international probe into "genocide" of Sri Lankan Tamils, the DMK said it had decided to quit the UPA and that its five ministers would resign by tomorrow.

It also wants a resolution by Indian Parliament on the issue. However, in making the announcement, DMK chief M Karunanidhi left open a window for reconsidering the decision by stating that it was "ready" to review it if Parliament adopts a resolution before March 21 taking the party's demands on board. The Geneva-based Human Rights Council is due to vote a resolution against Sri Lanka on March 21.

By the evening, the Congress leadership had a meeting after which sources said the Government is drafting a resolution on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue to be brought in Parliament in a bid to placate Karunanidhi. Of the five DMK ministers, M K Alagiri is of Cabinet rank. The DMK has 18 Lok Sabha MPs and six Rajya Sabha MPs.

Karunanidhi also ruled out outside support. With the DMK pullout, the strength of the UPA in the Lok Sabha will be reduced to 224 after its withdrawal but it enjoyed the support of 281 MPs that included those of outside supporting parties. The Lok Sabha has 539 MPs at present as four seats are vacant. The half-way mark is 270. SP(22) and BSP(21) were among the crucial outside supporters(57). Both the parties said they would support the government and there was no threat to its stability.

"Let me assure you that the stability of the government and the continuance of the government are not an issue. The government is absolutely stable and enjoys a majority in the Lok Sabha," Finance Minister P Chidambaram told reporters. When asked whether DMK would reconsider its decision of quitting the alliance if his demand for a resolution in Parliament was conceded by the Centre, Karunanidhi said: "We have time till this evening, so also tomorrow and even ahead of March 21.

Before that if the resolution is introduced in Parliament as desired by us and taken up for discussion, we are ready to change our opinion (of withdrawal of support)".

PTI

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