With assembly elections in Tamil Nadu slated for May, one factor that's helping the ruling DMK-Congress alliance is that it will not have to share seats with the Left parties the way it did in 2006.
And this means the DMK can be more accommodative of the demands of the Congress. DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi is expected to call on Congress president Sonia Gandhi when he visits New Delhi to participate in the chief ministers' conference on January 30.
"The absence of the CPI(M) and CPI will free up to 23 seats. So it would be easier to accommodate the Congress's wishes," said senior DMK leader and spokesperson TKS Elangovan, adding "It is a bit premature to talk numbers".
No. of assembly seats: 234
How parties fared in 2006 polls:
Ruling combine : 163
Current strength: 135
DMK 96 (now has 99)
Congress 34 (now has 36)
*The PMK joined the AIADMK camp shortly before the 2009 Lok Sabha poll
**The Left parties broke away following differences over the India-US nuclear deal
AIDMK 61 (now 57)
Vijaykant's DMDK 1
The DMK is also considering more potential allies. Elangovan said: "We have not shut our doors on anyone," referring to the keenness shown by the PMK, which quit the DMK combine on the eve of parliamentary polls in 2009, to team up again.
Political activity is picking up in the state, with the opposition AIADMK also in the hunt for a key ally. The CPI(M), which had sided with the party in the parliamentary elections of 2009, has promised to stay the course this time too but is still to finalise the seat-sharing arrangements.
The AIADMK will be a major gainer if it can rope in filmstar Vijaykant, whose regional formation, Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam, won 8% of the votes in 2009 and 2006. Though Vijaykant has vowed to throw out the DMK regime, he is yet to finalise a tie-up with the Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK.
Sources say seat sharing has become the sticking point in the alliance talks.
However, political commentator Cho Ramaswamy has advised the filmstar to be with Jayalalithaa.
"It will be a keen battle, with advantage AIADMK at the moment if it can whip up an effective campaign on the basis of the scandals, topped up by the 2G spectrum scam," said Ramu Manivannan, head of the department, political science and public administration, Madras University.