1971 and 1980 seat-sharing talks also were marked by hard bargaining

A long but troubled history. This best describes the electoral relationship between the Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam over the years.

Arch rivals in the early phase of the DMK's foray into electoral politics, there were times when the two parties shed their differences and worked together.

Be it in 1971 or 1980 or 2011, the two parties, despite cordial ties, had bargained hard for seats and locked horns on a host of other issues.

It was in 1971 that the two parties came together for the first time to face the polls when the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections were held simultaneously.

The famous split in 1969 had left the Congress divided into two parties at that time – Congress (Ruling) and Congress (Organisation). Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was the face of the Congress (R) while Jagjivan Ram was party president. In the Congress (O), former Karnataka Chief Minister S. Nijalingappa was president and K. Kamaraj its guiding force in Tamil Nadu.

For the 1971 polls, the DMK had decided to tie up with the Congress (R) in the State, which had leaders including C. Subramaniam and R.V. Swaminathan. At that time, the Congress (R) was considered weaker than the Congress (O), which commanded the loyalty of most of the rank and file.

During the seat-sharing negotiations, the Congress (R) had originally demanded 15 Lok Sabha seats and 30 Assembly seats. But, the DMK had offered five to seven Lok Sabha seats and 10 to 15 Assembly seats.

The talks remained deadlocked for 10 days. Eventually, on the high command's “advice”, the Congress (R) decided to contest nine Lok Sabha seats in the State [apart from the Puducherry constituency]. But, what was dramatic then was that it chose to give up its claim for the Assembly seats.

Nine years later, the resurgent Congress, led by Indira Gandhi, aligned with the DMK for the Lok Sabha elections. The alliance emerged victorious in 37 constituencies out of 39 seats. However, trouble began when the two parties started negotiations for the Assembly elections held later in 1980.

Though they agreed to contest an equal number of seats, the only point of contention was who should become Chief Minister in the event of the alliance capturing power. Finally, it was left to the Congress president and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to announce that the DMK president M. Karunanidhi would be the alliance's candidate for the post of Chief Minister. But, the alliance did not succeed and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam was returned to power. The feeling of unpleasantness that arose during the negotiations was regarded as one of the factors for the defeat.

In April 1996, senior Congress leader G.K. Moopanar, in a dramatic fashion, founded the Tamil Maanila Congress (Moopanar) on the eve of the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, revolting against the Congress decision to align with the AIADMK, which was then highly unpopular due to corruption charges.

The TMC (M) tied up with the DMK, and won 20 Lok Sabha seats and 39 Assembly seats. This alliance remained for a few more years and it continued for the 1998 Lok Sabha elections too. But, it was the turn of the AIADMK-led front then to capture a majority of the seats.

In 2004, the DMK and the Congress came together again to fight the Lok Sabha elections. The DMK-led front won all seats in the State and Congress bagged 10 seats. The alliance continued for the 2006 Assembly elections and this time, the Congress won in 34 out of 48 constituencies.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections too, both faced the electorate together and their front won 28 seats. The Congress contested in 16 constituencies and captured nine. Between 2004 and 2009, the seat sharing negotiations did not witness any major problem.

Ever since the DMK and Congress started parleys for the 2011 Assembly elections, persistent differences have now led to the DMK announcing that it would pull out its Ministers from the Union government.