The Congress-DMK seat-sharing imbroglio has been amicably settled. But before that, Sonia Gandhi had let Karunanidhi’s emissaries know that if push came to shove, her party was prepared for the consequences of its southern ally pulling out ministers from the Manmohan Singh government.
Sonia’s ‘out-of-character’ message to Dayanidhi Maran and MK Alagiri at their Monday night, 10 Janpath meeting was stunningly frank: the Congress would brook no more ‘humiliation’ and compromise of national interest by the DMK.
Rejecting upfront their half-way offer of 61 seats, enhanced to bring at par with the Congress’ demand of 63, she let them know that her party preferred not to remain in power than to be bullied into submission.
At one stage, she drew the Maran-Alagiri duo’s attention to the volatility in the markets after the DMK’s out-of-the-blue announcement to withdraw ministers rather than concede more than 60 seats to the Congress. “It isn’t just about individuals and parties. You must think of national interest,” she said.
The DMK gave in eventually but not before a last-ditch bid for a “face saving” figure of 62. It’s obvious in retrospect that Sonia’s tough talk made them let the Congress have its way.
The DMK leaders were nudged also by other Congress interlocutors, notably finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, to attribute the capitulation, if they saw conceding 63 seats to the Congress as one, to “pressure” from other partners keen on saving the alliance in Tamil Nadu.
The final meeting they had with Sonia on Tuesday evening was short, even relatively sweet, with the Congress president thanking them for rising to the occasion.