Cong-DMK seat-sharing talks run into trouble

The DMK and Congress are holding frantic discussions on sharing of seats for TN polls.

Chennai: With Tamil Nadu set to elect a new Assembly, the ruling DMK and its ally Congress were holding frantic discussions on Saturday on sharing of Assembly seats that have run into trouble.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukharjee admitted that the Congress-DMK talks had run into rouble but claimed the issue will be resolved.

"We have problems but problems will be solved," Mukherjee told reporters in New Delhi.

"In our political relationship, we have sometimes some problems. We have the capacity to create problems and at the same time solve them and it will be solved," he said.

The Congress reportedly wants to contest 63 of the 234 seats in Tamil Nadu, which goes to the polls on April 13. The state`s ruling DMK is reluctant to concede this many seats.

DMK leader and Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, Deputy Chief Minister MK Stalin today visited the DMK headquarters to discuss with senior colleagues how to meet the Congress demand for 63 of the 234 seats to contest.

Political sources said most discussions between the two parties were now being held over telephone.

According to a Congress source, the party was prepared to "slightly scale down" its demand.

"The situation has been changing for the past two days. It is difficult to predict the course of talks," the Congress leader said.

DMK leader and former Central minister TR Baalu admitted that talks were on with the Congress on seat sharing.

Karunanidhi issued a statement past midnight Friday that the party would decide on Saturday whether or not to ally with the Congress. The DMK called the Congress demand "unjustified".

"Is it practical for the Congress to demand 63 seats and expect them to be given? The issue will be discussed (Saturday) and appropriate decision will be taken," Karunanidhi said.

Smaller parties are already speaking out against the Congress.

According to a leader of PMK, a DMK ally, the absence of the Congress from the alliance would not be a major handicap.

"The DMK-PMK-VCK combine is a strong force and can win the elections," the leader said not wishing to be identified by name.

Karunanidhi said that in 2006, the DMK contested 132 seats, Congress 48, PMK 31, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) 13 and the Communist Party of India (CPI) 10 seats.

He said that with the Communist parties parting ways, their 23 seats had to be distributed to allies like the VCK, KMK and others.

He said the Congress was told that after allotting seats to other parties, the remaining would be shared between the Congress and the DMK.

This calculation, he said, would leave the Congress with 51 seats. However, since the Congress wanted more seats, he increased the number of seats to first 53, then 55, again 58 and finally 60.

This was conveyed to Congress general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is the party in charge of Tamil Nadu.

The Congress is reportedly upset over the DMK`s generous allocation of seats to other mostly smaller parties.

On Wednesday night, immediately after Azad left, the DMK allocated seven seats to the KMK.

The DMK has signed electoral pacts with five parties involving 52 seats - KMK (7), MMK (1), VCK (10), PMK (31) and the Indian Union Muslim League (3 seats).

After giving away 60 seats to the Congress, the DMK would be left with just 122 for itself. If it concedes 63, it will be left with 117, which is just two over the halfway mark in the 234-member House.


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