Congress, DMK meet on seat-sharing inconclusive

Congress, DMK meet on seat-sharing inconclusive; parties to meet again

Congress contested 41 Assembly seats as part of the DMK alliance in the 2016 Assembly elections

DMK leader M K Stalin. Credit: PTI Photo

Congress and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the leader of the Opposition-led alliance in Tamil Nadu, on Thursday kicked off their talks to arrive at a seat-sharing arrangement for the Assembly polls. However, no agreement was reached as there was a “wide gap” between the demand from Congress and the offer from the DMK.

Sources in the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee (TNCC), and DMK told DH that two or three more rounds of discussions are needed to thrash out a deal. Though the DMK and Congress leaders have held informal talks on the number of seats earlier, this is the first time leaders of the two parties sat across the table and held discussions.

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“There was a wide gap between the demand from our party and the number of seats offered by the DMK. We started off with a number, and they gave a number. The gap was wide. But the discussions were held in a cordial atmosphere. We hope to arrive at a conclusion in future meetings,” a senior TNCC leader told DH.

The sources said the Congress began the negotiations with a demand for around 45 to 50 seats, but the DMK stuck to around 20 seats. “Only half of the number asked by us were offered today. And decisions are arrived in one meeting. We will continue to meet and get a respectable number for the Congress,” another leader in the know said.

Former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Congress General Secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala, and AICC in-charge for Tamil Nadu Dinesh Gundu Rao represented Congress, while the DMK team consisted of its General Secretary Durai Murugan, and leaders like Kanimozhi.

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Congress contested 41 Assembly seats as part of the DMK alliance in the 2016 Assembly elections. However, the DMK has expressed its inability to allot the same number or anything close to that citing increase in the number of alliance parties in the combine. The DMK also says its cadre want the party to contest maximum number of seats.

Congress leaders feel anything less than 30 seats would not augur well for the party, which has a committed vote bank of 4 per cent in Tamil Nadu. “We would need at least 30 seats to convince our party men. The DMK should understand that it would benefit immensely from Rahul Gandhi's campaign in the state,” another leader said. When contacted, a DMK leader said Thursday's meeting was just the first one, and if the differences persist, leaders of the two parties – Rahul Gandhi and M K Stalin – might talk and resolve the issue.

Apart from the Congress, the DMK alliance consists of Left parties, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), and a few other parties.

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Congress and DMK have been in an alliance since 2004 except from 2013 to 2016 when the two parties parted away and contested the 2014 Lok Sabha polls separately. Both Congress and DMK drew blank in the election.

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