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DMK blinks; Congress gets 63 seats to contest
NEW DELHI/CHENNAI, MAR 8 (IANS):
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Published on 9 Mar. 2011 1:22 AM IST
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After a three-day tense drama that triggered a major crisis for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Tamil Nadu’s ruling DMK Tuesday finally allowed the Congress to contest 63 of the 234 seats in next month’s assembly elections. After suddenly ending seven years of support to the Manmohan Singh government over the Congress insistence on fighting from 63 constituencies instead of 60 as desired by DMK, the two parties announced an equally dramatic truce capping days of secret negotiations.
Congress leader and central Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, the party in charge of Tamil Nadu, made the announcement as DMK central ministers M.K. Azhagiri -- elder son of Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi -- and Dayanidhi Maran looked on. “The Congress will be contesting 63 seats. Now we have unanimously come to the conclusion that ... the alliance will work together,” a beaming Azad told reporters in New Delhi.
“We will ensure that entire alliance is back to power. This is a winning alliance,” Azad added. Azhagiri, who played a key role in ensuring that the DMK-Congress marriage continued, echoed his sentiments. He did not go into details.
Informed sources in Chennai said the DMK and two of its allies, the PMK and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), would give up a seat each from their quota to meet the Congress demand of 63 seats. Naturally, Azad gave due credit to Tamil Nadu’s smaller parties.
“Apart from DMK and Congress, there is PMK, there is VCK, and Muslim League. So all put together, this is a winning alliance,” said Azad, who had cancelled a scheduled meeting in Chennai with Karunanidhi over the weekend amid escalating tensions. The DMK was then willing to give only 60 seats to the Congress.
The Tuesday announcement followed an hour-long meeting at the house of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who shares a close relationship with Karunanidhi since the DMK took power in Tamil Nadu in 2006 with the outside support of her party.
The DMK had earlier asserted that the Congress demand of 63 seats -- and that too of its choice -- for the April 13 polls was unjustified.
On Saturday, it asked its six ministers to quit the central government by Monday night. But the decision was put off until Tuesday after the Congress reportedly asked for more time -- to resolve the row.
Azhagiri and Maran called on Gandhi Monday night after talks with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Azad, who were adamant that the Congress would not budge on its demand for 63 seats. With this announcement, the DMK has signed electoral pacts with six parties involving 113 of the 234 seats. The six are: Congress (63), KMK (7), MMK (1), VCK (10), PMK (30) and IUML (2). The PMK and IUML were earlier allotted 31 and three seats respectively.
Sacrifice in alliance’s larger interest: Karunanidhi
As the DMK and the Congress overcame differences to arrive at a seat-sharing agreement for the April 13 assembly polls, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK chief M. Karunanidhi Tuesday said his party has made a sacrifice in the alliance’s larger interests.
Addressing a function where around 3,000 cadres of DMDK joined his party, Karunanidhi said the party has accepted the Congress’ demand for the extra seats in the larger interests of the state and following the policy of give and take.
Terming it an “happy day” for them, he expressed confidence that the alliance partners would fight the polls with renewed vigour so as to win again. He lauded alliance partners PMK and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) for sacrificing one seat each for the Congress. The third seat will come out of the DMK’s share.
He also criticised a section of the media for trying to create a wedge between the two long-time allies.

 
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