DMK, Congress sign pact, but tensions persist

DMK president and Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, who had only last week called the Congress demand for 63 seats "unjustified", signed the deal for his party. The Congress was represented by state chief K.V. Thangkabalu.

Speaking to reporters later, Thangkabalu said: "The Congress will be contesting in 63 seats. The choice of constituencies will be decided by the five-member committee of each party." The chief minister did not address the media after the signing.

According to informed sources, the Congress will put up candidates in the 48 seats it contested in 2006. The remaining seats it will contest April 13 will be decided after mutual discussions. Although the DMK and Congress have patched up, many political activists and pundits feel that the strains in their relationship are unlikely to go away.

The run up to Wednesday's agreement saw a dramatic turn of events.  On Saturday, a peeved DMK withdrew its six ministers from the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and dumped the Congress in the state, ending a seven-year alliance.

DMK members celebrated the decision with crackers and sweets. And many Congress activists felt relieved to come out of what they felt were DMK's clutches. But the DMK capitulated Tuesday after the Congress, which had propped up the Karunanidhi government since 2006, refused to budge from its claim for 63 seats.

The Congress demand was met with the DMK, PMK and IUML giving back one seat each from their own quota. On Wednesday, PMK founder leader S.Ramadoss said: "Giving back a seat after it was allotted has not happened earlier. But we have done it in the interests of the coalition."

He hoped that the DMK, PMK and Congress would now work together. Political commentators -- and the opposition camp -- are not sure that will happen. DMDK leader Panruti S. Ramachandran said: "The bitterness will continue between the leaders and cadres of the two parties (DMK and Congress). They might have stitched the alliance but the scar will remain."

Marxist leader T.K. Rangarajan told IANS: "It is pure surrender by the DMK to the Congress. The DMK wants the Congress more than the other way around." Noted commentator Cho Ramaswamy echoed the sentiments.

"Now the Congress votes may not go to the DMK and vice versa. Also, the Congress may not be as friendly to the DMK as before."

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