The DMK today put on hold the resignation of its six ministers from the UPA Government in a dramatic new turn with the party and Congress engaged in hectic negotiations to sort out their seat-sharing problems in Tamil Nadu.

On a day of hectic developments, senior Congress leader Mr Pranab Mukherjee telephoned DMK chief Mr M Karunanidhi twice and urged him not to pull out his ministers from the cabinet during the Budget Session and sought a day’s time to resolve problems.

“Pranab Mukherjee called our President M Karunanidhi twice during the day. The Congress has asked for a day’s time. So, the withdrawal of ministers from the government has been put on hold till tomorrow,” Deputy Chief Minister and DMK treasurer Mr M K Stalin told reporters at Anna Arivalayam in Chennai. Asked when the issue will be resolved, Stalin said: .“they have asked for a day.”

DMK MP Kanimozhi said the talks between her party and the Congress were on still and that a “clear picture” will emerge only tomorrow.

The turn of events took place after Mukherjee held a series of meeting first with DMK minister Mr Dayanidhi Maran followed by discussions with Congress president Ms Sonia Gandhi.

Gandhi’s political secretary Mr Ahmed Patel, Congress in-charge of party affairs in Tamil Nadu Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad and Home Minister Mr P Chidambaram were present during the discussions between Maran and Mukherjee.

Shortly before the six ministers, inlcuding Mr Maran and Mr M K Alagiri, were to meet Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and handover their resignation in the evening, Mr Chidambaram met Mukherjee for a second time.

The Union Finance Minister then called Mr Karunanidhi seeking a day’s time to come back with Congress’ position on the seat-sharing issue.

Sources said that the DMK made it clear that the offer of 60 seats to Congress was final and that the choice of constituencies could be negotiated.

Late last night, Mr Mukherjee called DMK Parliamentary Party leader Mr T R Baalu and asked him to convey to Mr Karunanidhi not to withdraw the ministers from the government. Mr Baalu told reporters during the day that there was no question of reconsidering the withdrawal decision.

Notwithstanding the call, the six ministers left Chennai as scheduled in the morning for Delhi to meet the Prime Minister and tender their resignation.

The appointment with the Prime Minister was rescheduled from morning to evening and was finally called off in the evening against the backdrop of hectic talks between the two sides.

Congress sources in Delhi said a solution could emerge in a day or two and dismissed suggestions of a threat to the Central government.

“Have you seen well-established alliances breaking up a fortnight before election campaigning is to start on an issue like demand for three more seats?

“It’s not a major issue. We are hopeful the issue will be resolved tonight or latest by Tuesday night. If it does not resolve by Wednesday, then there will be indeed serious problems,” a senior party leader said on condition of anonymity.

The leader also did not attach much importance to DMK’s possible execution of the threat of its ministers’resigning from the government.

“Resignations do not make much difference. They can later also be withdrawn,” he said adding he was “hopeful” of an early solution to the problem which he described as “nothing else but hard bargaining for seats so natural in an alliance.”

At the AICC briefing, party spokesperson Mr Abhishek Singhvi described as the creation of “minds of fertile imagination” the talks of a threat to the UPA government.

Asked whether Congress was open to the idea of aligning with AIADMK, Mr Singhvi remarked “I am not going into any speculative and hypothetical question at this stage.”

Mr Singhvi’s refrain to a host of questions on the fate of the alliance, including whether Congress has dumped DMK in a big brotherly act, was that “there are no new developments.

Our alliance is at the same stage where it was earlier. No new facts or developments have come so far.”

He said that the party has nothing more to say at this time. “Give us some time. Have a little patience. Let us not speculate. Let us not go into the details of it now. When we will have something in due course, we will share it with you,” he said.

Peeved over Congress demand for 63 seats as against the 60 agreed for the April 13 Assembly polls in the state, DMK had announced on Saturday its decision to walk out of the cabinet, saying it would extend only ‘issue-based’ support.

Union Health Minister Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad, who had negotiated with the DMK on seat sharing for Tamil Nadu assembly polls, said there was no breakthrough in the deadlock as of now. “As of now there is no breakthrough. Let us hope.... (We will see) what is going to happen in the course of the day,” Mr Azad told reporters in Parliament.