Karunanidhi's DMK says quitting govt; cabinet in huddle

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, in an announcement that took even veteran political observers by surprise, said this morning that it is leaving the United Progressive Alliance government, and would not even give outside support to the Congress-led coalition.

The bone of contention is the so-called Sri Lanka issue – M Karunanidhi's DMK has its political base in Tamil Nadu. Though the party currently does not rule the southern state, the DMK has 18 MPs in the Lok Sabha (including five ministers); and its withdrawal would seriously threaten the UPA's always shaky majority.

The DMK is irate over the government's refusal to endorse a United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) resolution to condemn Sri Lanka for war crimes in relation to its suppression of a movement for a separate Tamil state within the island nation.

Latest reports suggest that a compromise will be reached. The DMK now simply wants the government to make a statement in Parliament condemning the 'repression' of Tamils in Sri Lanka, without reference to the US-led UNHRC resolution (which expectedly has been supported by all Western countries).

Earlier, in a statement from Anna Arivalayam, the DMK headquarters in Chennai, party boss Karunanidhi said, "The government of India did not even consider the amendments (to the UNHRC resolution) proposed by the DMK. So a situation has arisen where the alliance will not benefit Eelam Tamils in any way.

''Despite this if the DMK continues in the union government, it will be a grave injustice. So the DMK has decided to pull out of the government and the UPA."

Karunanidhi said the DMK's five union cabinet ministers, including his son M K Alagiri, will resign during the course of the day.

Nevertheless, the DMK chief added that his party would reconsider its decision if the UPA government adopts a resolution in Parliament censuring the Sri Lankan government for alleged war crimes and genocide, without going so far as to sign the UNHRC convention.

The DMK's decision came a day after talks with Congress emissaries and senior ministers, A K Antony, P Chidambaram and Ghulam Nabi Azad, failed to thrash out a consensus on the issue.

Meanwhile, the senior Congress cabinet ministers are in another huddle with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to sort out the issue.

In Parliament today, Praful Patel of the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) – another important constituent of the UPA government – said the DMK does not want to cause instability.

"Theirs is a genuine concern for people of Tamil Nadu. The DMK, I am told, will reconsider its stand if Parliament passes a resolution. Let's not read too much into it," said Patel.