The Congress is not clear on how to proceed with the seat-sharing talks with the DMK in the event of not being able to reach an agreement on power-sharing. With the DMK leadership averse to the very idea of any prior commitment on the issue, Congress leaders in the State are unsure of what their next step should be.
After having convinced the party high command of the wishes of the cadre for a power-sharing agreement with the DMK, the State unit does not want to go back on its demands for power-sharing, setting up a coordination committee and finalising a common minimum programme.
The DMK, however, wants to put off any decision on these issues until after the elections. According to the DMK leadership, everything will depend on the election results. Any pre-election agreement on these issues may not go down well with the electorate and may be interpreted as a sign of the ruling party's weakness.
A Congress Member of Parliament, on condition of anonymity, says the party is facing a real dilemma — “dharmasangadamana nilamai.” According to him, Chief Minister and DMK president M. Karunanidhi is averse to power-sharing. “Though he may even be willing to part with a few more seats, over and above the 48 offered during the talks on Sunday, he is opposed to the very concept of power-sharing.”
At the same time, he believes his party holds an upper-hand with the DMK during the seat negotiations, a situation unlike any during the last three decades. Not since 1980 has the Congress managed to strike a hard bargain in the Assembly elections with the two major Dravidian parties. “Now it is for them (the DMK) to placate us and not the other way round,” the MP says, pointing to the spectrum scam in which former Telecom Minister and DMK MP A. Raja is facing charges.
With the Youth Congress virulently against any tie-up with the DMK, the TNCC will be hard pressed to find a face-saving formula without any assurance on power-sharing from Mr. Karunanidhi. “What will our cadre think about us if we fail to get anything from the ruling party on this issue, even though the DMK has been part of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance Government at the Centre for the last six years?”
A senior Congress leader also admits that his party has been “out-manoeuvred by the DMK, which entered into a 31-seat pact with the PMK , “in unseemly haste.”
He questioned the wisdom of announcing the continuance of the alliance with the DMK before finalising the terms of the tie-up for the current elections. Sources close to Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president K.V. Thangkabalu say it was he who raised the issue of power-sharing at a meeting in Tiruchirappalli about two years ago. It was also taken up by former TNCC president E.V.K.S.Elangovan.
“Now the same issue has come to the fore and we don't know how to save our face if the DMK were to reject our plea outright.” Youth Congress sources say AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi is very particular about power-sharing.