The Congress-DMK alliance in Tamil Nadu has hit a roadblock, with the M. Karunanidhi led party apparently making a humiliating offer of 30 seats to the Congress, less than half of what the latter contested in the 2011 Assembly elections. Sources in the Congress told The Sunday Guardian that Rahul Gandhi, the party’s vice president, is miffed with the offer and has instructed the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee to push for a hard bargain. Rahul is apprehensive that if the Congress accepts to contest in only 30 seats in a house of 234, it will confirm the general perception that the national party has become a junior player in regional coalitions.
Sources said the Congress is pitching to reclaim its share of 63 seats, which the DMK had offered it in 2011, but its southern ally is citing the Congress’ poor performance in the state to make it settle for 25 to 30 seats. The Congress had won only five seats in the 2011 Assembly polls, and its vote percentage came down to a measly 4% in the 2014 general elections. Congress in-charge for the state, Ghulam Nabi Azad met DMK chief Karunanidhi last week, but no agreement could be reached. “Rahulji has told the TNCC to remain prepared for contesting on all 234 seats if the DMK fails to offer us a respectable deal. We are also working for that possibility. The leadership may come down to settling for 50 seats, but anything less than that is not acceptable,” said a Congress functionary aware of the developments. The Congress believes that the DMK, which was routed by J. Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK in 2011 and 2014 elections, needs to take its small but definite vote base by its side in order to put up a close fight with the ruling party. “In a way, the DMK needs the alliance more, as they have more to lose in the state,” the party functionary said. The DMK realises the repercussions of letting the Congress go, and hence, it is dismissing speculation that talks for seat sharing have come to a halt. “We do not want to create any problem with our alliance with the Congress. Our leaders have already formed this alliance and we will definitely go to the polls together. There is some rumour about differences between the two parties, but that is baseless. It is a handiwork of the AIADMK and others, who want to disrupt our alliance,” DMK leader and secretary of its Chennai district committee, J. Anbazhagan told The Sunday Guardian. The Congress is also upset that the DMK has allocated fives eats each to IUML and MMK. The TNCC is of the opinion that the Congress has way more presence than the two parties, but DMK is accommodating more allies in order to marginalise it.
Experts believe the DMK may be covertly making an attempt to cut the Congress presence in the state, which is apparent from its bid to include the Tamil Maanila Congress into the coalition. The TMC is a breakaway faction of the Congress in Tamil Nadu and it is apparently trying to seal an agreement with the ruling AIADMK. Congress leader S. Thirunavukkarasar, who is a part of the eight-member Congress panel for discussing seat sharing, told the media on Wednesday that the party will not be nudged into accepting fewer seats than what it contested last time. “We have no objection to DMK bringing any party into the alliance. But they should not cite it as a reason for reducing the Congress seats. Many people are running parties with the suffix Congress. But the Congress led and guided by Nehru’s family is the real one,” Thirunavukkarasar told the media. With fissures in the alliance beginning to show, the DMK may give a respectable share of seats for the Congress to fight from, but experts believe that will be less than 63. “The seat sharing is being finalised.
We’re getting some feedback from the constituencies. We will be able to come up with the list shortly. In a couple of days or three days, you will get all the information,” Anbazhagan told this newspaper.
Tamil Nadu will go to the polls on 16 May. Results will be announced on 19 May.