Although the talks between the Congress and the DMK got stuck on the issue of the number of seats, leaders of both parties reported “forward movement” on the issue of power-sharing.
A senior Congress leader involved in the talks said the DMK had “informally” agreed to the proposal for power-sharing.
However, while the DMK does not want a pre-election formal agreement on the issue, the Congress is adamant that a firm commitment on a coalition government be made right now.
“We want them to declare this (power-sharing) openly,” another Congress member said.
The toughening of the Congress position on seat-sharing for the Assembly election was made possible by the full backing of AICC president Sonia Gandhi, and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi, it is learnt.
On Friday, when leaders of the DMK and the Congress came to the negotiation table, the Congress team, led by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, made it clear that his party would not settle for anything less than 90 seats.
The DMK leaders were not prepared for the “substantial increase” as they claimed to have only 53 seats to offer.
The Congress leaders expressed their inability to accept the offer and left Anna Arivalayam without meeting Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi.
“We have been asked by Sonia Gandhi not to climb down from any of our demands. She, in fact, shot down the proposal of one of the five leaders of the committee for a more pragmatic approach during talks,” one of the members of the Congress seat-sharing committee said.
Another member said the high command was upset that the DMK leadership sealed the pact with PMK before finalising seat-sharing with the Congress.
When the issue was raised during the talks, one of the DMK leaders argued that they wanted to pre-empt the PMK from switching over to the AIADMK alliance. Mr Chidambaram reacted strongly to this explanation. “Do you take us for granted because we will not switch camps,” he is reported to have asked.
Though the Congress has taken a strident line, party leaders feel that the alliance with the DMK was unlikely to take a turn for worse. “We cannot leave the alliance now.
This is not the time for experiment. If we were really interested in a third front we should have made preparations at least six months ago,” a leader said.
The committee members would brief Ghulam Nabi Azad, in-charge of party affairs in Tamil Nadu.