The preparations for the Lok Sabha elections in Tamil Nadu have well and truly begun with the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam finalising their respective alliances.
On Wednesday, the DMK signed the seat-sharing agreement with the Congress, which will contest nine of the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu and one seat in Puducherry as part of the alliance. On Thursday, the seat-sharing committee of the DMK opened formal talks with the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which has placed a demand of two Lok Sabha seats and two seats in the upcoming bye-elections to 21 Assembly constituencies.
The DMK will also hold talks in the coming days with Communist Party of India, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. All three parties have placed a demand of two Lok Sabha seats each.
The details about constituencies the Congress will fight will be announced later, DMK President MK Stalin told reporters in Chennai on Wednesday. Congress General Secretary Mukul Wasnik, who is in charge of party affairs in Tamil Nadu, flew down to Chennai to sign the pact.
This is the first time that the DMK will be facing the Lok Sabha elections with Stalin as its president. He took over the reins of the party after the death of his father, M Karunanidhi, in August 2018. Therefore, the elections are seen as a test of his leadership.
The DMK and Congress had fought the parliamentary elections together in 2004. Their other allies included Pattali Makkal Katchi of S Ramadoss and Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam led by Vaiko. This alliance, which swept all 39 seats in 2004, continued in the 2009 Parliamentary polls too. The DMK pulled out of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance in 2013, citing the Centre’s stand in the United Nations on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue.
Tamil Nadu witnessed a wave of protests in 2012 condemning the indiscriminate killings of Tamils during the final stages of the Eelam war in 2009. The anger against Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa was directed towards the Congress-led UPA government for its alleged support to the Sri Lankan government during the war, which decimated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The LTTE was responsible for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. A report commissioned by then United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon estimated that at least 40,000 people died in the first five months of 2009 in Sri Lanka.
Sentiments stirred against the Congress-led government at the Centre during the final days of Sri Lankan war in 2009 seem to have died down in Tamil Nadu. This has paved way for the DMK to reach out to its old ally for an alliance to contest this parliamentary election. The Congress and the DMK fought the 2016 elections together as well, losing to the J Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK.
However, the vote share of the DMK alliance has seen a steady fall since 2004. From gaining over 50% of the votes in 2004 Lok Sabha polls, it dropped to 25% in 2009 and stood at 23.4% in 2014. The party had won 18 seats in 2009 but drew a blank in 2014. The Congress, which contested alone in 2014, also did not win any seats. It secured a vote share of 4.3%, dropping from 15.3% it had polled in 2009 when it won eight seats.
In the meantime, the AIADMK concluded its seat-sharing talks with the Pattali Makkal Katchi and the Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday. The former was given seven seats and the later five under the electoral agreement.
The Pattali Makkal Katchi’s inclusion in the AIADMK alliance came as a surprise given that its founder S Ramadoss had been a bitter critic of the ruling party over the last two years. Within minutes of the alliance announcement, DMK president Stalin termed the pact “shameless”.
On the other hand, the BJP has managed to strike a good deal by getting five Lok Sabha seats despite having a vote share of less than 4% in the state. Both the parties have agreed to back the AIADMK in upcoming bye-elections to 21 Assembly constituencies, something that would be crucial for the survival of the AIADMK government.
Meanwhile, the AIADMK has opened talks with the Vijayakant-led Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam. AIADMK officials said Vijayakanth has demanded 10 Assembly seats and four Lok Sabha seats. The party also wants the promise of a Rajya Sabha seat. The AIADMK is trying to restrict the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam to two Lok Sabha seats, one Rajya Sabha berth and five Assembly seats.
The Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam led by TTV Dhinakaran and Makkal Needhi Maiam led by actor Kamal Haasan have decided to contest the elections alone. The Naam Tamizhar Katchi, a significant Tamil nationalist party led by Seeman, will also face the polls without allies.