Chennai/New Delhi, March 5 (IANS) Tamil Nadu’s ruling DMK and its ally, the Congress, were Saturday locked in intense negotiations after running into roadblocks over seat sharing for the state’s assembly elections.
As the DMK’s top leaders, including Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, met Saturday evening in Chennai, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee admitted to strains in the DMK-Congress relationship.
But Mukherjee claimed the dispute could be resolved. “We have problems but problems will be solved,” the Congress leader said in New Delhi.
“In our political relationship, we have some problems sometimes. We have the capacity to create problems and at the same time solve them, and it will be solved,” he said.
According to DMK, the Congress wants to contest 63 of the 234 assembly seats in Tamil Nadu April 13.
The DMK, with many other smaller allies who too need to be accommodated, is reluctant to concede this many seats to the Congress, its main partner.
Also in New Delhi, Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi declined to discuss details of the negotiations with the DMK.
Describing their talks as “sensitive”, he said: “We cannot muddy the water by discussing electoral strategies in the glare of media light.”
Past midnight Friday, a frustrated Karunanidhi publicly described the Congress demand for 63 seats as “unjustified”.
“Is it practical for the Congress to demand 63 seats and expect them to be given?” he asked.
Taking part in the Saturday DMK meeting were Karunanidhi, Deputy Chief Minister and his son M.K. Stalin, his other son and central minister M.K. Azhagiri, and former central ministers T.R Baalu and Dayanidhi Maran.
In Jammu, central Health Minister and Congress-in-charge of Tamil Nadu Ghulam Nabi Azad said talks were on with the DMK on seat sharing and hoped “they don’t break ties”.
“I am hopeful we will pull together,” he said.
One Congress leader in Chennai told IANS that his party was prepared to “slightly scale down” its demand. But he added that it was “difficult to predict the course of the talks”.
Karunanidhi said that in 2006, the DMK contested 132 seats, the Congress 48, PMK 31, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) 13 and the Communist Party of India (CPI) 10 seats.
He said that with the communist parties parting ways, their 23 seats had to be distributed to smaller allies like the VCK, KMK and others.
He said the Congress was told that after allotting seats to other parties, the remaining would be shared between the Congress and the DMK.
This calculation, he said, would leave the Congress with 51 seats. However, since the Congress wanted more seats, he increased the number of seats to first 53, then 55, again 58 and finally 60.
The Congress is reportedly upset over the DMK’s generous allocation of seats to smaller parties. Its anger shot up after the DMK allocated seven seats to KMK Wednesday night — after Azad left Chennai.
The DMK has signed electoral pacts with five parties involving more than 50 seats: KMK (7), MMK (1), VCK (10), PMK (31) and the Indian Union Muslim League (3 seats).
After giving away 60 seats to the Congress, the DMK would be left with just 122 for itself. If it concedes 63, it will be left with 117, just two over the halfway mark in the 234-member house.
In the meantime, the AIADMK, after sewing up seat-sharing deals with six smaller parties for 49 seats, is expected to sign pacts with the Left parties Sunday.
The AIADMK entered the much-expected alliance with the DMDK, led by actor-turned-politician Vijayakant, Friday night.
In 2006, the CPI-M contested in 13 seats and won nine while the CPI put up candidates in 10 and won six seats. Both were then allied with the DMK.
The AIADMK is also expected to sign an electoral pact with long-time ally MDMK. The MDMK contested 36 seats in 2006 and won six.
The AIADMK has so far reached agreements for 49 seats with six parties, allotting 41 to DMDK, Puthiya Tamizhagham (2), MNMK (3) and a seat each to the Republican Party of India, All India Forward Bloc and AIMMK.