The BJP's alliance with Tamil Nadu's ruling AIADMK done and dusted, the Congress put the alliance with DMK on fast track and announced the seat sharing deal this evening. The Congress is likely to have 9 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu and the lone seat in Puducherry. Of the rest, DMK is expected to contest around 20 seats and the balance will go to the six smaller allies that include the MDMK, VCK, CPI and the CPM.
A delegation led by senior Congress leader Mukul Wasik had finalised seat sharing with the DMK in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. Mr Stalin had led the DMK team. Announcing the details of the deal, MK Stalin told reporters: "There is a wave of opposition (against AIADMK) and people expect change".
In the 2014 general elections, the AIADMK, under the leadership of J Jayalalithaa, had won 37 of the 39 seats. Of the other two, one went to the BJP and the other to its ally PMK. Both DMK and the Congress, who broke their alliance ahead of the elections, had drawn a blank.
The DMK, however, insists the ruling party's status has been revised following the death of Jayalalithaa. The party is seen as struggling with factionalism and there have been corruption allegations against many of its leaders.
The party is even in danger of being reduced to a minority in the state assembly if the by-election to 21 assembly seats does not go its way. There is a buzz that the Election Commission could hold these by-polls along with the general election. The Speaker had disqualified 18 pro-Dhinakaran lawmakers who, in a letter to the Governor, had demanded replacement of Chief Minister E Palaniswami.
There is also a perception that the ruling party had failed to protect the interests of the state's people on various fronts, including the Cauvery water dispute, the medical entrance exam NEET and the anti-Sterlite protests.
It is its changed status that is seen as having pushed the AIADMK to go for an alliance with the BJP - a move the true blue Dravidian leader Jayalalithaa had steered clear of for quite some time. The BJP has been assigned five seats and also gets the lone seat in Puducherry.
All of this has brought hope to the DMK, which claims not only to capture the maximum Lok Sabha seats but also return to power in the by-elections that would follow.
But the opposition alliance this time is missing a vital ingredient - the PMK. In 2004, with PMK in its fold, the DMK-Congress combo had swept the Lok Sabha polls, winning all 39 seats with 57.4% vote share. Without PMK, the alliance won only 27 seats in 2009, with 42.54% vote share. This time, the PMK has joined the ruling combine - parties that it has spent years criticising.
"AIADMK alliance is money centric, not people centric. More than us, PMK has been critical of the AIADMK," said Mr Stalin, who is facing his first election as party chief after the death of his father, M Karunanidhi in August last year. After proposing Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Ministerial candidate, Mr Stalin is under immense pressure to deliver.
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