The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Congress, DMK stuck on seat
- tussle over pondicherry in ‘firm & final’ alliance

Chennai, Jan. 25: A Congress team including Manmohan Singh and Kamal Nath failed to clinch a seat-sharing deal with the DMK today though the Dravidian party said their shares have already been “agreed upon” with Sonia Gandhi.

The sticking point seemed to be the Pondicherry Lok Sabha seat, which the DMK gave to ally PMK in an understanding on seat division on Friday. The Pondicherry Congress is up in arms against the move with chief Narayanswamy insisting that central leaders should prevail upon the DMK “to get back” the seat for the Congress.

Apparently, Kamal Nath and Manmohan Singh could not persuade DMK chief M. Karunanidhi to reconsider his decision on the Pondicherry seat during their 90-minute meeting here.

Addressing the media after the meeting, Karunanidhi said he could not reconsider taking back the Pondicherry seat from the PMK and reallocating it to the Congress as he had already signed an agreement with PMK leader S. Ramadoss. “The Congress insisted on being allotted Pondicherry, but I have told them my difficulties,” he added.

Speaking separately, Kamal Nath said the issue will be taken up when the Tamil Nadu Congress chief and other functionaries here discuss the number of seats for the Congress and identify the constituencies with the DMK in the next two or three days.

He added that “we will further bear in mind that the DMK has already taken a decision (in allotting Pondicherry to the PMK) and that the PMK is also a constituent of the alliance”, indicating that his party might not press too hard for the seat.

The stand might not go down well with the Congress’ Pondicherry unit, some of whose leaders have gone to the extent of saying the DMK’s decision “will not be binding” on them.

But the Congress general secretary in charge of Tamil Nadu made it clear that “our alliance is firm and final”. “It is not the number of seats which determines the strength of an alliance, but the chemistry (between partners) which will determine its strength,” he said. Manmohan Singh kept a smiling presence, but did not speak.

Karunanidhi made light of the inconclusive talks today, saying the number of seats for the Congress has been “settled” during his talks with Sonia Gandhi. But he refused to give details.

Sonia is expected to visit Chennai on January 29, DMK sources said.

The figure widely mentioned in political circles is 11 seats for the Congress, though the latter is believed to be insisting on at least 12 seats in Tamil Nadu (of the total 39) and the sole seat in Pondicherry.

The DMK president added that only identification of the constituencies remains. The state Congress, which was not involved in the alliance talks so far, will be included, he said, indicating the DMK’s willingness to redress state Congress chief G.K. Vasan’s grouse that he has not been consulted on seat-sharing.

Karunanidhi said finalising the seat-sharing agreement with the Congress by the end of this week would help negotiations with other allies like the Left parties and the MDMK.

The DMK has given the PMK six seats — Chengalpattu, Tindivanam, Dharmapuri, Chidambaram, Arokkkonam (in Tamil Nadu) and Pondicherry.

PMK leader Ramadoss has also been assured of a Rajya Sabha berth later.

Yesterday, Karunanidhi allocated Vellore, with a sizeable Muslim population, to the Indian Union Muslim League.

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