With the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam driving a hard bargain with its allies on sharing seats ahead of Tamil Nadu’s assembly elections in April, its partners are caught between the prospect of facing a backlash from their cadres for not getting an adequate number of tickets and taking the blame for diluting the ideological fight against the Bharatiya Janata Party if they withdraw from the front.
But with the DMK refusing to budge on the demands of some of its partners, seat-sharing talks in the alliance.
The alliance includes the Congress, the two Communist parties, the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, the Indian Union Muslim League and the Manithaneya Makkal Katchi.
The Indian Union Muslim League has accepted the offer of three seats to contest from and the Manithaneya Makkal Katchi two seats.
But the DMK has offered the Congress only 18 seats, down from 41 it was given in the 2016 Assembly polls. The DMK has cited the expansion of the front from 2016 for its inability to give the Congress more seats. The Tamil Nadu Assembly has a total of 234 seats.
The two Communist parties, the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam were part of a third front in 2016.
The Congress, however, wants 30 seats and believes the offer of 18 seats is unacceptable. This is lower than the number of seats the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam is offering the BJP. On Wednesday, media reports said the BJP could contest in 24 seats as part of the AIADMK alliance.
A Congress MP said on condition of anonymity the party high command does not want to go below “30 seats” to “maintain the party’s dignity”.
If the DMK does not agree to a higher number, the leader said the Congress would have no option but to walk out of the alliance. “If the talks do not conclude on Wednesday, we have to start talking to other parties to see what we can do,” he said.
Leaders of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi led by Thol Thirumavalavan had asked for ten seats. The party is being offered five. Both the Communist parties are being offered four seats each and are also asking for more.
A Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi leader said the initial offer from the DMK was four seats. It has gone up to five. But the party hoped to get at least nine seats. “We are all aware that the DMK alliance is an ideological alliance,” the leader said. “We are keen for the alliance to continue to ensure the defeat of the BJP-AIADMK alliance. But the DMK should be more accomodative.”
Speaking to The Hindu, senior DMK leader KN Nehru dismissed the claim that the party was behaving like a big brother and said the talks were going on smoothly.
In the meantime, the ruling AIADMK is likely to conclude seat-sharing agreements either on Wednesday or Thursday. The alliance includes the Pattali Makkal Katchi, which will contest in 23 seats, the BJP, the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam, the Tamil Maanila Congress and few other smaller parties.