Indian National Congress president Sonia Gandhi called DMK president MK Stalin over the phone last night to bring the hitherto inconclusive seat-sharing talks between the two parties to an end, extracting 25 seats for the shrinking national party in the process.
The DMK and INC had on Sunday signed a seat-sharing agreement for contesting the Tamil Nadu assembly election together. The DMK today allotted 25 assembly seats for the INC in the coalition, other than the Kanyakumari Lok Sabha seat that fell vacant after H Vasanthakumar was infected with Covid-19 and died in August last year.
Sonia Gandhi reached out to Stalin, emphasising the need to sustain the ‘secular’ alliance in the wake of the phenomenal rise of the BJP across the country, a senior AICC leader based in Delhi said under the condition of anonymity. Besides the assembly seats, the Sonia-Stalin talks were also about two Rajya Sabha seats, with one directly from DMK and another based on the outcome of the assembly election, which the INC’s had requested earlier.
“The DMK had assured the Congress that it will consider the request at the right time. We do not put these in black and white and it works on mutual trust,” said the INC politician.
Following his talks with Sonia Gandhi, Stalin invited TNCC president KS Alagiri and AICC general secretary in-charge of Tamil Nadu Dinesh Gundu Rao to his house late this evening. DMK women’s wing secretary Kanimozhi too was present. Significantly, it was the first such meeting that Stalin held at his residence, as DMK held all its negotiations at its party office.
On Sunday in the morning, Stalin and Alagiri had formally signed the seat-sharing agreement at Anna Arivalayam, the DMK headquarters. Dinesh Gundu Rao, Congress legislature party leader K R Ramasamy and Kanimozhi were present.
The development concludes the protracted negotiations that DMK had had with the INC. The first round of talks began on February 25, followed by the second round last Tuesday, amid tears, angst and recriminations. Last Friday, at an internal meeting of the TNCC, Alagiri broke down while narrating to party colleagues how the negotiating team was “treated” by DMK leaders.
“This election is more about the need to strengthen the secular plank rather than the number of seats. To prevent the spread of the BJP, which is more dangerous than the coronavirus, all secular parties had to join hands with the single aim of defeating the BJP and its allies,” Alagiri told reporters after signing the deal.
Alagiri recalled that in his recent campaign in Tamil Nadu, INC’s former president leader Rahul Gandhi described the assembly election as an ideological war, more than a mere change in regime. “This secular front will win big in this election, ” Dinesh Gundu Rao said.
Before Sonia-Stalin deal
After several rounds of talks, the DMK on Monday signed the seat-sharing agreement with CPI(M), allotting them six seats for the assembly election. The deal was signed by DMK president MK Stalin and CPI(M) state secretary K Balakrishnan at the DMK headquarters ‘Anna Arivalayam’ in Chennai.
Addressing the reporters, Balakrishnan said since they have a political responsibility to make AIADMK suffer a crushing defeat and also to stop BJP from gaining a foothold in Tamil Nadu, they have settled for six seats.
DMDK must wait before talks with AIADMK succeed
Meanwhile, the ruling AIADMK party which struck the deal with Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) in the last week of February, is yet to arrive at an agreement with their ally Desiya Murpoku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) led by Captain Vijayakant. The talks between the two parties are struggling to make a progress as DMDK had been demanding a higher number of seats than what was offered by the ruling party.
DMDK’s Deputy Secretary B Parthasarathy Sunday said they have scaled down their request to 23 seats from their original demand of 41 which was allocated to them in 2011 elections. Following this, DMDK leader Vijayakant has called for an urgent meeting with the party district secretaries tomorrow at the party headquarters in Chennai.
So far, in AIADMK’s alliance, 23 seats have been allocated to PMK, and 20 have been provided to BJP. The ruling party is yet to finalise the seat-sharing talks with other allies such as GK Vaasan’s Tamil Maanila Congress, Krishnaswamy’s Puthiya Tamilagam, etc.
Both the Dravidian parties have allotted the Kanyakumari by-election seat to the national parties BJP and INC. On behalf of BJP, former Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan is set to contest while the INC is yet to name their candidate.