What made DMK leader finally budge?

In a 20-minute meeting which started at 10.30 am on Sunday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Sonia’s political secretary Ahmed Patel decided that there was no alternative except that Raja should go.

At 11 am, Mukherjee rang up Karunanidhi and told him about the Congress decision. According to insiders in the Congress, he did not insist that the DMK minister should quit.

Mukherjee just told Karunanidhi about the Congress decision and left a final say to the Tamil Nadu chief minister. He did not say that Karunanidhi should ask Raja to step down. Karunanidhi then spoke to Home Minister P Chidambaram—the two are quite close to each other.

Caught in a bind, Karunanidhi, who had all along been maintaining that Raja would stay, held a meeting with the controversial minister and his other party leaders. By around 1.30 pm, he asked Raja to meet the prime minister and submit the resignation, which he did at 11 pm.

Although the DMK satrap provides the crucial support to the Congress-led UPA with his 18 MPs, he depends on the Congress for an equally critical backing in Tamil Nadu. The DMK, which falls short of 19 MLAs for a majority in the Tamil Nadu Assembly, is supported by the Congress which has 34 MLAs.

In addition to this,  Karunanidhi’s rival J Jayalalitha was all ready to back the UPA government in case the DMK decided to pull out. The chief minister was also said to be rattled by the prime minister’s statement that “at the moment”, the Congress’ ties with DMK will stand.

Obviously, unsure of the DMK’s performance in the 2011 Assembly elections and a Congress veering towards the AIADMK in an unlikely event, Karunanidhi was forced to ask one of his favourite followers to resign.

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