After days of intense bargaining, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the Congress on Tuesday clinched a deal under which the national party would contest 63 seats in next month's Tamil Nadu Assembly elections.

The development signalled that the DMK, eventually, yielded to the Congress' demand for a higher number of seats.

Addressing a meeting at the party headquarters here in the evening, DMK president and Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi announced the conclusion of the seat-sharing process. Expressing happiness over the development, he said his party would contest 121 seats, eight less than last time. [The Indian Union Muslim League and the Moovender Munnetra Kazhagam will contest on the DMK symbol].

The announcement was preceded by a few rounds of talks between Union Minister Dayanidhi Maran and senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee. Later, Congress general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad, along with Union Ministers M.K. Alagiri and Mr. Maran, called on Congress president Sonia Gandhi and made the announcement on the conclusion of seat-sharing.

The negotiations had hit a roadblock on Friday last when Mr. Karunanidhi criticised the Congress for raising its demand to 63 seats after his party had agreed to allot 60 seats. The next day, the DMK's high-level committee decided to pull out its Ministers from the Union government.

Once the negotiations resumed between the two sides, the question of finding ways to accommodate the Congress' latest demand came up. The Pattali Makkal Katchi, which was originally allotted 31 seats, was sounded on whether it could give up three seats. Finally, the DMK found a solution after the PMK and the Indian Union Muslim League agreed to shed one seat each from their allocation. The ruling party too had come forward to give away one seat from its kitty.

Pointing out that the number of Nayanmars [saints of the Saiva tradition of south India] was also 63, Mr. Karunanidhi expressed the confidence that the Congress would welcome the number of seats allotted to it “reverentially.”

It will be for the first time in 15 years that the Congress will contest over 60 seats in the Assembly elections in the State. In 1996, when the Congress had an electoral understanding with the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), 64 seats were allotted to it. Then, it was a washout for the national party.

According to sources in the Congress, the five-member committee is expected to meet the DMK president on Thursday when the deal is to be signed formally. The Congress leadership has conveyed to the DMK nominees that the identification of constituencies has to be finalised with the Congress first.