Stalin off to London, DMK-Congress seat sharing talks may be delayed

Chennai, February 15, 2011

The seat-sharing talks between the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the Congress are likely to suffer a delay as Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin left for London this morning on a personal visit.

Mr Stalin, accompanied by his wife Durga Stalin and friend Raja Shankar, left for London today.

Mr Stalin, who is heading the party’s poll panel and assigned to hold seat-sharing talks with the Congress and other allies, is likely to return either on February 19 or 21 after a health check-up, party sources said.

The DMK leader’s foreign trip is likely to delay the seat-sharing talks as the party may prefer not to hold talks with the Congress in his absence, The panel comprises, among others, senior leaders Arcot N Veerasamy, M K Azhagiri and Duraimurugan.

Initially, the DMK formed a five-member panel, headed by Mr Stalin and later expanded it and included Mr Azhagiri, the party’s South Zone Organising Secretary, and Union Minister Dayanidhi Maran.

Meanwhile, the five-member poll panel constituted by the Congress to hold talks with the DMK, held deliberations for two days, eliciting views of party MPs, MLAs, district presidents and other office- bearers regarding number of seats and choice of constituencies.

While Union Minister P Chidambaram, who took part in the deliberations on the first day, left for Delhi on Sunday evening, other members - TNCC President K V Thangkabalu, Union Minister G K Vasan, Ms Jayanthi Natarajan and party legislator Jayakumar wound up the exercise yesterday and left for the capital to brief the high-command on the deliberations.

During their stay in Delhi, the panel members are likely to meet party president Sonia Gandhi and brief her on the two-day deliberations held at various levels in the party.

A majority of partymen, during the two-day meeting, expressed the view that the Congress should seek at least two seats per Lok Sabha constituency, which works out to be 78 seats, besides seeking share in power, sources said.

The second day of the meeting yesterday was marred by walk-outs by at least ten district presidents, supporters of former Union Minister E V K S Elangovan, protesting against his non-inclusion in the poll panel.

Mr Elangovan, who is seen as a firebrand leader in the party, had been open in his views and demanding that the party be given 110 seats on the lines of seat-sharing between the DMK and the Congress in the 1980 Assembly elections. He has also been demanding that the Congress should stake its claim for share in power, in the event of the DMK-Congress combine winning the assembly elections.

Besides the Congress, the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), led by Thol Thirumavalavan, is part of the DMK-led alliance at present and the PMK is likely to join the front.

The DMK would prefer to hold seat-sharing talks with the VCK and the PMK, in the event of the party coming back to the DMK fold after completing the exercise and alloting seats to the Congress.

The PMK had been demanding around 35 seats for coming back to the DMK-led alliance, four seats more than the 31 it had contested in alliance with the DMK in the 2006 assembly elections, but the DMK is willing to offer only around 25, party sources said.

The PMK, which presently has a strength of 18 MLAs in the assembly, broke ties with the DMK and joined the AIADMK in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. It contested seven seats and drew a blank.

NNN

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