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New deadline for Ministry expansion

By Our Special Correspondent

BANGALORE, NOV. 26. The top-level confabulations and flurry of activity witnessed in the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) camps in the past week regarding the expansion of the Ministry have proved to be nothing more than hype, and the issue has been put off again.

The Chief Minister, N. Dharam Singh, today set a new deadline for the appointment of new Ministers. The Ministry expansion will come about "before the commencement of the Shoonya Maasa" (before December 15), he said without specifying a date. The coalition Ministry will complete six months in office on November 28.

Addressing presspersons here, Mr. Dharam Singh said the Congress's list of legislators to be appointed as Ministers had already been submitted to the All-India Congress Committee (AICC). The Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, and the new AICC general secretary in charge of Karnataka, A.K. Antony, would approve the list in the first week of December. Mr. Antony would not be able to meet Ms. Gandhi till November 30 as he had prior engagements in Kerala. Ms. Gandhi would be away from New Delhi at the end of the month.

`No opposition'

Mr. Dharam Singh said the Janata Dal (S) had not posed hurdles to the expansion of the Ministry. There was no opposition to the Congress list from the Deputy Chief Minister, Siddaramaiah, and the Ministers M.P. Prakash and P.G.R. Sindhia. A couple of days ago, he had held talks with former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda about the Ministry expansion. "There are no problems either from the Janata Dal (S) or the Congress," Mr. Dharam Singh reiterated.

Asked about the inclusion of former Minister D.K. Shivakumar in the Ministry, he said it was left to the Congress High Command. "Ms. Sonia Gandhi can change the list and we cannot question her." Mr. Shivakumar had met the Congress president and pleaded for considering his case.

To a question on the reasons for the delay, Mr. Dharam Singh said so far factors such as elections to the Maharashtra Assembly and the delay in the appointment of new AICC General Secretary in charge of the State after Vilasrao Deshmukh became the Chief Minister of Maharashtra had come in the way. "Mr. Antony will take up the expansion issue on a priority basis," the Chief Minister said.

Film industry row

Referring to the protest by the Kannada film industry on Thursday, the Chief Minister said the Government would take some more time to resolve the issues pertaining to the industry. He denied that the Government had adopted a stubborn attitude towards the industry. For the first time, matinee idol Rajkumar took out a protest march to the Vidhana Soudha, demanding fulfilment of several demands, including a three-week moratorium on exhibition of non-Kannada films in the State, he added.

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