N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras
With both the All India Anna DMK and the Congress sticking to their guns on the Pattali Makkal Katchi issue, the chances of a Third Front emerging ahead of the assembly elections in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry have become brighter.
While at one-level seat-sharing talks are deadlocked between the AIADMK and the TMC-Congress combine, at another the basic issue of PMK's presence in an emerging alliance has become non-negotiable for both sides.
That way, if the AIADMK thought that it could put the Congress-TMC combine on the defensive by inducting the PMK into its fold, it does not seem to have worked. As AIADMK strategists argue: "By inducting the PMK, with its chief ministerial ambitions in Pondicherry, we have thwarted the Congress-TMC claims for a coalition in Tamil Nadu, as well."
However, the Congress has now hit back in kind, by making not only the Pondicherry chief minister's post non-negotiable, but even the PMK induction unacceptable, given the 'LTTE angle'.
Opinion is divided within the TMC over joining the AIADMK combine without the Congress. While a small section is in favour of the alliance, the majority view is that the party founder G K Moopanar's image would take a severe beating if he is seen as ditching the Congress at this
late hour, that too when the parent party has taken a 'principled stand' on the PMK issue.
"With no national ally to call our own other than the Congress, we should not do anything that could come in the way of a post-poll merger of the TMC with the parent party, given Moopanar's health and the vagaries of politics," says a senior TMC leader.
According to the majority opinion in the TMC, the TMC-Congress combine will be able to win 30-40 seats leading a Third Front.
They insist on the 'MGR formula', where the AIADMK offered 66 Assembly seats to the undivided Congress in Tamil Nadu, and two-thirds of the seats in Pondicherry. Negotiating for the TMC and the Congress together, Moopanar is said to be insisting on 60 seats for the combine in Tamil Nadu, 40 of them going to the TMC. The lowest that the combine is willing to come down is said to be 55 seats, 15 of them going to the Congress.
But here again, Pondicherry holds as much problem for the negotiators. Apart from holding the chief ministership in Pondicherry, the Congress is keen on having adequate number of seats in the company of the TMC, for it to try form a government in the post-poll scenario. "It is not just a question of losing a chief ministership, but helping the pro-LTTE PMK form a government in the coastal territory, that too when countries like the UK have banned its activities. The Congress cannot be seen helping and aiding the process," says a senior party leader, adding, that "the
minimum guarantee that we require thus is to ensure that the PMK is not allotted adequate number of seats in the AIADMK combine for it to stake its claims to forming a government in the Union Territory."
Against this, however, AIADMK chief Jayalalitha has promised an early decision on the alliance.
For a leader who has gone ahead and announced her poll strategy without any hitch in the past, the current elections have proved to be bothersome. If she thought that the TMC would prove problematic, and the Congress, an easy negotiator, it has proved to be otherwise.
Not that the TMC has proved any easier, given its strident stand on seat-sharing. Even the two
Communist allies are proving to be hard nuts to crack, given their own assessment of their strengths, and the consequent demands for seats.
"Their demands and claims are all inflated, so is their ego," says a senior AIADMK leader. "Even in the best of times, we could not have accommodated all the claims of the TMC, Congress and the Communists. Now we have the PMK as well," says he adding, "the very induction of the PMK became necessary only because the rest could not ensure our victory. And only with the PMK in has the Secular Front come to be seen as a 'winning combination' both in Tamil Nadu and
He points out: "When the allies say that they are all for Jayalalitha becoming chief minister and also for the AIADMK forming a government of its own, then they should be agreeable to any formula in which the PMK too gets its share."
Adds he in this regard: "If they think that we can't win without their support, they are sadly mistaken. There is no room in the state for a Third Front, and the people are tired of the
ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazagham and the Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre. That being the
case, we stand to win even without them, and only the Congress-TMC combine would lose, if they floated a Third Front."
Decision on Monday, says Jaya
DMK shuts door on TMC
Moopanar continues to keep everyone guessing
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