AIADMK, DMK run into seat-sharing speed breaker with allies in Tamil Nadu

Neither the AIADMK nor the DMK is willing to concede to the demands of the BJP and the Congress for more seats to contest in the Lok Sabha elections.
Union railway minister Piyush Goyal had a lengthy meeting with the AIADMK top brass in Chennai on Thursday but the two parties could not decide on the number of seats to contest in the Lok Sabha elections.(PTI)
Union railway minister Piyush Goyal had a lengthy meeting with the AIADMK top brass in Chennai on Thursday but the two parties could not decide on the number of seats to contest in the Lok Sabha elections.(PTI)
Updated on Feb 16, 2019 09:40 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Chennai | ByMC Rajan & M Manikandan

Seat-sharing talks between the ruling AIADMK and the BJP as well as that involving the opposition DMK and the Congress for the Lok Sabha elections have hit a road block with the Dravidian majors unrelenting over the number of seats which the national parties are demanding.

Both the Congress and the BJP have been pressing for double digit seats, a demand the AIADMK and the DMK see as too high to accommodate, people familiar with the developments said.

Following the standoff with the DMK during the negotiations, Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president KS Alagiri left for New Delhi on Saturday after being summoned by the party high command. This followed DMK Rajya Sabha MP, Kanimozhi Karunanidhi engaging Congress leaders in the national capital. Interestingly, she had cancelled her programmes in Thoothukudi at the instance of Stalin.

According to Congress functionaries, the party had demanded double digit seats, considering the fact that the party had contested 15 seats together with the DMK. But, the DMK cited the 2014 results when the grand old party secured only 4.3% votes and did not accede to the Congress demand. Both the DMK and the Congress failed to win any of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu in 2014.

Now, it is up to the leadership of both the parties to thrash it out.

It is not smooth sailing for the AIADMK and the BJP either with the saffron party pushing for a larger number of seats. The Thursday night between Union railway minister Piyush Goyal, BJP’s in-charge of Tamil Nadu BJP with chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and deputy CM, O Panneerselvam and seat sharing panel of the AIADMK failed to yield any result.

Many of the seats in the BJP’s wish list are also strongholds of the AIADMK, which are also cornered by AIADMK Ministers and regional satraps either for their wards or family members.

Both the parties will have another meeting on February 19 to finalise seat sharing. The BJP won one Lok Sabha seat in Tamil Nadu in 2014.

“Without mass base in Tamil Nadu, both the BJP and Congress have to ride piggy back on the Dravidian parties. Their claim to higher number of seats stems from the fact that either of them would form the government at the Centre, where they could accommodate them. But, the Dravidian parties are wary of yielding more political space to the national parties. Further, conceding more seats means that they have to carry the national parties on their shoulders,” said C Lakshmanan, Associate Professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies.

While the national parties are struggling to get a foothold in Tamil Nadu, regional players, the OBC Vanniyar-dominant PMK of Ramadoss and DMDK of actor Vijayakanth are engaged in a hard bargain with both the AIADMK and DMK. The two parties had no qualms in admitting that they are holding talks with the AIADMK and the DMK.

The PMK and DMDK have not identified their preference but agree that they have been talking to both the Dravidian majors with an eye on securing more seats.

In the past assembly and LS elections, the PMK and DMDK have managed to get 4% to 5 % vote share.

Though it was expected that the PMK and DMDK would team up with the AIADMK-BJP combine, the two regional players are dragging their feet.

“We have been talking to the DMK as well as the AIADMK. Soon, we will make an announcement about our alliance,” Anbumani Ramadoss, PMK youth wing president and Dharmapuri MP told the media recently.

For her part, DMDK treasurer Premalatha Vijayakanth, on Saturday said the big parties in the state are engaged in talks with them.

“The major parties in the state are talking to us. Our leader Vijayakanth has returned from the US now. He will decide the alliance soon,” said Premalatha.

It is clear that the PMK and the DMDK would choose the party which offers the best deal.

According to a senior office bearer of PMK, their party wants at least seven seats with the promise of a Rajya Sabha seat later.

“Our party is very strong in the northern districts. We are the deciding factor in Dharmapuri, Salem, Krishnagiri, Vellore, Tiruvallur, Kanchipuram, Arakkonam, Sriperumbudur, Villupuram, Kallakkurichi, Chidambaram, Cuddalore, Arani and Tiruvannamalai LS seats. So, our party expects at least half of the constituencies where we are having a strong base,” said the PMK functionary.

DMDK sources said their party wants to bargain a minimum of six seats.

“For us, Villupuram, Kallakurichi, Perambalur, Salem, Kanchipuram, Tiruvannamalai, Arani and Madurai LS constituencies are our forte. So, we are bargaining to get these seats,” said a close associate of Vijayakanth.

Though DMK has confirmed the alliance with Congress, it has not firmed up any pact with other allies such as Vaiko’s MDMK, CPI, CPI(M) and VCK, a Dalit party.

DMK’s seat sharing panel head and party treasurer Duraimurugan has been maintaining that new parties would come into DMK-Congress combine and a few of their current allies would go out.

“MDMK, VCK, CPI and CPI (M) are not our alliance partners, they are just friends. As of now, Congress and the IUML are our electoral allies. After election dates are announced, new friends may come on board and a few existing ones could go away,” Duraimurugan has said earlier.

According to analysts, Duraimurugan’s statement reveals that PMK would come anytime into the alliance.

“We cannot say anything now. Duraimurugan, himself a Vanniyar, would be interested in getting the PMK on board. Also, he is hoping to field his son from Vellore, where the PMK could tilt the scales. So, he wants to bring the OBC Vanniyar party into the alliance. Since PMK and VCK are rivals, PMK’s entry would disturb VCK,” said Aazhi Senthilnathan, a publisher and analyst.

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