Parties in alliance will work together to ensure that it returns to power: Azad
The seat-sharing deal between the Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) ended a three-day battle of nerves.
Emerging from Congress president Sonia Gandhi's 10 Janpath residence here on Tuesday, party general secretary in charge of Tamil Nadu and Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad — accompanied by DMK Ministers at the Centre, M.K. Alagiri and Dayanidhi Maran — announced that the two parties had “unanimously” concluded that the Congress would contest 63 seats in next month's Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu.
“All the parties in this alliance will work and campaign together to ensure that the alliance returns to power,” Mr. Azad said, describing the combination as a “winning alliance.” For the Congress, this was a victory of sorts as 63 was the number over which the negotiations had broken down last Friday and consequently the DMK announced its intention to pull out its six Ministers from the United Progressive Alliance government. In the 2006 Assembly elections, the Congress' share was 48.
Mr. Alagiri said the pact arrived at “was a winning formula.” Asked whether he or Mr. Maran should be given the credit for clinching the deal, he said the party cadres wanted an “amicable settlement.” To a query whether the DMK cadres would work for the Congress during the campaign, given the recent bitterness between the two parties, Mr. Alagiri said: “Definitely. The entire cadre will work for the coalition and we will come back to power.”
Earlier, at the meeting in Ms. Gandhi's residence, two other senior Congress leaders, who played a role in the patch-up, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Congress president's political secretary Ahmed Patel, were present.
However, earlier in the day, things looked shaky as the Congress' trio of troubleshooters — Mr. Mukherjee, Mr. Azad and Mr. Patel — were spotted rushing through the corridors of Parliament, looking grim and uncommunicative.
By late afternoon, Mr. Maran arrived at Mr. Mukherjee's Parliament office. He sat there alone for close to half hour, before Mr. Patel arrived, followed by Mr. Azad and finally Mr. Mukherjee. This was Mr. Maran's second meeting with the Congress leaders on Tuesday. Interestingly, at the second meeting, Union Minister E. Ahamed was also called in. His party, the IUML, is a DMK ally in Tamil Nadu.
It was after this second meeting that the three Congress leaders and Mr. Maran drove down to 10 Janpath to seal the deal in Ms. Gandhi's presence. That session did not take very long, and soon after Mr. Azad, Mr. Alagiri and Mr. Maran emerged to make the announcement on the seat-sharing pact.
However, there was no mention of the Congress' demand that it should be able to choose the 15 new constituencies or its desire to have an agreement on power-sharing.