The Congress and its Tamil Nadu ally DMK have not been able to finalise a seat-sharing deal for the April 6 election despite two rounds of talks. According to sources, the Congress's demand for contesting in 30 of the state's 234 assembly seats is unacceptable to its Dravidian ally. The MK Stalin-led party - which is the dominant partner in the alliance in the southern state - is not ready to concede more than 20 seats, leading to a stalemate.
There is speculation that a Rajya Sabha seat could be offered to the Congress.
Asked if the party will settle for a seat in the upper house of parliament, Tamil Nadu Congress chief KS Alagiri replied with an emphatic "no". He, however, claimed the "talks are going on smoothly".
The DMK, which had won 38 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in 2019, wants to win the upcoming elections by contesting as many seats as possible, sources say. MK Stalin's party doesn't want a repeat of the 2016 elections, when the Congress could win just eight of the 41 seats it had contested in.
It is not only the Congress that is facing a cut in its seat-share in the alliance. Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK) has been offered only two seats against four in 2016. Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) has been given only three seats against six last time.
Top Congress sources say the party understands its limitations and may settle for a lesser number of seats to help the DMK win.
In the opposite camp, the AIADMK and the BJP are also holding seat-sharing talks. There is speculation that the BJP could be offered around 20 seats. The ruling party's ally PMK has already been given 23 seats to contest in.