The meeting between the Congress and DMK on Friday over sharing seats for the upcoming Tamil Nadu assembly elections remained inclusive with the national party’s senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad saying the allies are yet to firm up the numbers.
Azad, who called on M Karunanidhi along with senior Congress leader Mukul Wasnik, spent over an hour with the DMK patriarch and senior party leaders MK Stalin and Kanimozhi and other office bearers.
“In this meeting, we did not discuss the numbers. But maybe the next time during the second meeting, we would be able to firm up the numbers,” Azad told reporters outside Karunanidhi’s Gopalapuram residence.
“Today’s meeting was only the first of more such meetings where the number of seats each party would contest would be finalised,” he said.
The senior Congress leader added they are trying to ascertain who the other alliance partners that have come on board are and also those about to join the formation.
Azad skirted questions about the number of seats that his party would ask for.
“The next time, we would like to tell the DMK leadership that we should also finalise the number of seats we would contest and also as to how many seats the others would contest.”
“This is not the final meeting,” Azad said adding that the Congress leadership would also be apprised of the developments and briefed about the deliberations.
The seat-sharing discussions are expected to be heated as well as protracted as the two sides are maintaining stiff positions. While the Congress wants to contest at least 63 seats, the same number it contested in 2011, the DMK is unwilling to allot the national party more than 30 seats.
A senior DMK leader said, “The Congress is now considerably weakened after its leader GK Vasan broke away and it should not insist on a large number of seats and lose them. The alliance would suffer if Congress insisted on high numbers.”
Azad’s visit came days after the unsuccessful attempts of the DMK to woo Captain Vijayakanth’s DMDK to its camp. Besides the Congress, DMK has reached an electoral understanding with Muslim parties like the IUML and the MMK. IUML has been allocated five seats by the DMK.
The Congress and the DMK had announced their alliance to fight the assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, reviving a partnership three years after they parted ways on a bitter note, earlier in March.
The DMK was a part of the ruling UPA for almost nine years before pulling out of it in March 2013 to protest the then Manmohan Singh government’s stand on the Sri Lanka human rights issue at the United Nations.
The DMK continues its hunt for smaller regional parties to add vote shares that will give it a fighting chance in what promises to be a multi-cornered contest, that at present seem to present AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa with an advantage.
The Congress has been out of power in Tamil Nadu for nearly five decades.
In the 2014 general elections, both the parties fought the polls separately and both drew a blank. The Congress faced the ignominy of losing deposits in all but one of the 39 Lok Sabha seats it contested in Tamil Nadu.
Both parties had realised the necessity to build an alliance to take on a resurgent Jayalalithaa and came together after a gap of five years, to fight the 2016 general elections together in an alliance.
Congress leaders hope that the alliance will reap rich electoral dividends as had happened in 2004, 2006 and 2009 polls. The DMK-Congress combine won all the 39 Lok Sabha seats in 2004 parliamentary elections, and also formed the government in the state in 2006.
The alliance performed reasonably well in 2009 general elections in which it won 28 seats.
The southern party’s popularity has been on the decline after its drubbing in the 2011 assembly polls followed by the complete rout in the 2014 general elections.