Chennai: The DMK-Congress talks appear to have run into rough weather as the DMK has reportedly made it clear it would not yield more than 25 seats whereas the Congress wants at least one seat in each of the 39 Lok Sabha constituencies.
At their recent meeting in Chennai, DMK president M Karunanidhi reportedly told Congress leader Gulam Nabi Azad that 25 seats was his liberal offer to his truncated national party with vastly diminished cadre base and public support following the breakaway by the Vasan group. Giving the Congress more would mean gifting that many seats to Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK, he told the Congress senior, sources said.
They said when Azad reported the DMK offer to his party high command, Rahul Gandhi reportedly reacted saying it would be better for the Congress to go it alone rather than fall further in public esteem by accepting 25 seats. He fixed 39 as the lowest acceptable offer, at the rate of one Assembly seat in each Lok Sabha constituency in Tamil Nadu. Why should the Congress bend lower just to help the DMK coming to power and in the bargain compromise on its own long-term ambition to rebuild the party as a significant player in the Dravidian turf, he felt.
DMK seniors appear to feel that the Congress had polled just about three percent votes in 2011 state polls (as DMK ally, it had won five seats while the DMK got 23 and PMK three) and has suffered further erosion due to Vasan’s exit. Besides, there are at least half-a-dozen feuding factions in the state Congress unit—barring Kushboo, none from among the state Congress seniors seem to like PCC chief EVKS Elangovan, though he is a hit with the media and the commoner finds his wit and street-fighter spirit attractive. So why give away 39 seats to the Congress only to see its candidates lose badly to the AIADMK nominees, the DMK leaders feel.
“These DMK leaders are making a mistake if they think that we are easily dispensable. The DMK would stand to gain in at least ten constituencies, particularly in the south, because there are still many old-timers there who like the khaddar shirts (Congress dress) and have always remained our staunch loyalists”, said a Congress state leader, requesting anonymity.
“DMK leaders are making a mistake if they think that we are easily dispensable. It is wrong to assume that we had scored just three per cent votes in 2011 polls (was in DMK camp) and this support base has further eroded. You should take into account our vote per cent only in the constituencies we fought and not compute the figure in relation to the entire state electorate of about five crore voters”, argued another Congress senior.
He said: “We do not want to say anything publicly since the talks have not derailed and the kettle is still warm. We expect that the DMK will give us at least 30 seats, nothing less. When Karunanidhi could give as many as 15 seats to Muslim parties at the risk of angering the Brahmin voters, why would he insult us with less than 30? In any case, we are asking 39”.
Another state Congress leader said the final decision on alliance rested with Sonia Gandhi and Karunanidhi. “Perhaps Karunanidhi also listens to son Stalin and daughter Kanimozhi—the latter is a good friend of Gulam Nabi Azad—but then, Kalaignar will not agree to snap ties with us just for the sake of a few seats”, he said, adding, “Soniaji continues to enjoy great rapport with the DMK chief”.
Meanwhile, Gulam Nabi Azad has not indicated when he would resume talks with the DMK seniors. “We still have a long time to go. We need not rush the alliance decision only to regret later”, said a DMK senior.