After many days of negotiation, the Congress and the DMK have finalised their seat-sharing arrangements for the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections.
The Congress will contest from 25 Assembly constituencies and the Kanyakumari Lok Sabha constituency, the voting for which will also be held on 6 April. The agreement was signed on the morning of Sunday, 7 March.
The decision came after a late night meeting at DMK chief MK Stalin’s residence. Congress leaders KS Alagiri, Dinesh Gundu Rao and KR Ramasamy visited the DMK chief’s residence after the meetings held through Sunday were unfruitful. Sources told TNM that Rahul Gandhi had a telephonic conversation with Stalin pushing for the number of seats to 25 from the 20 seats DMK had been offering. The DMK had their political consultant Prashant Kishor come down to Chennai as well.
With many Congress leaders complaining of humiliation by the DMK, speculations of the national party walking out of the alliance were rife. The last one week, several speculated a possible alliance of the Congress with Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam. Discussions of Congress fighting the elections solo as well were reportedly held in party meetings, according to sources, but with less than a month to go, many senior leaders believed that the party had no time to prepare to fight in all 234 seats.
The stalemate between the two parties had been a cause of concern for the Congress leadership, which had asked the state unit to seal the deal amicably sooner rather than later.
Senior leader Veerappa Moily, deputed to Tamil Nadu to oversee election management in the state, had told reporters on Friday, "The talks are on and it may be finalised by today or tomorrow."
The Congress in Tamil Nadu faced a tough task in bargaining for seats with the DMK taking a hard stand. The Congress wanted to contest in at least 41 seats, the same as the previous election. DMK sources had told TNM earlier that they had begun with an offer of just 12 seats and increased it to 18 on Wednesday and 20 on Thursday.
However, Congress leaders found the low number of seats being offered unacceptable and pointed out that the party was putting its entire strength into campaigning. The visit of former party president Rahul Gandhi was also seemingly part of a strategy to pressurise the DMK to yield more seats. The Congress had called its state leaders to deliberate on the issue in Chennai.
The DMK, meanwhile, said that it was even willing to go ahead and contest the elections without an alliance with the Congress, as it was confident of a victory.
A source close to MK Stalin had told TNM earlier that the Congress was welcome to the alliance but they "needed to understand the present condition and accept the offer and work towards the DMK alliance victory."
The polling to the 234-member Tamil Nadu Assembly will be held in a single phase on 6 April. Counting of votes will take place on 2 May.
(Published in an arrangement with The News Minute.)
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