The AIADMK-BJP combine’s plan to have DMDK founder Vijayakant and other alliance partners seated alongside Prime Minister Narendra Modi on stage at the NDA’s inaugural political rally near Chennai on Wednesday failed to fructify as the DMDK reached out to the DMK for an alliance at the eleventh hour, only to be shown the door.
The DMK told the party that it had no seats to spare for the Lok Sabha polls and did not want to encourage parallel negotiations now.
Following this, the DMDK, which was until a few days ago wooed by both Dravidian majors, found itself hopelessly at the mercy of the AIADMK-BJP front. The party reopened negotiations with the BJP and AIADMK late in the evening but with no decisive outcome.
It was a day of twists and turns as the DMDK, which kept the AIADMK-BJP in suspense mode, first had a meeting chaired by Mr. Vijayakant at its headquarters. In the afternoon, while Mr. Vijayakant’s brother-in-law L.K. Sudhish was closeted in a meeting with the BJP’s Tamil Nadu election in-charge Piyush Goyal at a hotel near Chennai airport, a DMDK delegation knocked on the doors of DMK treasurer Duraimurugan, hoping to seal a last-minute deal.
Mr. Duraimurugan engaged the DMDK delegation led by former MLA Murugesan for a brief while and expressed inability to part with any seats. Emerging from the meeting, Mr. Murugesan told waiting journalists that he had met the DMK leader for “personal” reasons but soon Mr. Duraimurugan embarrassed the DMDK by confirming that the delegation had come to meet him to reopen negotiations.
“Sudhish reached out to me and said that they want to align with the DMK. He said that it [deal with AIADMK] didn’t work out for them and they weren’t given ‘respect’. I told him that we don’t have any more seats. He asked me to accommodate the party in the DMK alliance somehow,” said Mr. Duraimurugan. “I told them that seat-sharing talks have been completed and I can’t decide on allotting seats to DMDK. We don’t have seats befitting their stature,” he quipped.
Hinting that the DMDK had lost its political value in the DMK’s scheme of things, Mr. Duraimurugan said he tried to call party president M.K. Stalin to brief him on the development. “I was told he was sleeping. Since this was not a big matter, I decided not to disturb him,” he said.
Mr. Sudhish, on his part, told reporters waiting outside the hotel that the DMDK continues to hold talks with BJP to be a part of the NDA in Tamil Nadu. “We spoke about alliance, number of parliamentary constituencies and also the specific constituencies. The talks will continue,” he said.
Expressing concern about how the PMK was given preferential treatment, he said, “Ever since the leadership decided that the party will go with the BJP and NDA, we have been speaking to the BJP. At this time, PMK was given seats and we had expressed our displeasure.” At that time he had contacted Mr. Duraimurugan. However, Mr. Sudhish did not answer a specific question on whether he had reached out to the DMK on Wednesday or why his party functionaries had met Mr. Duraimurugan.
DMDK sources said that talks with DMK were reopened because AIADMK had reneged on its promise made earlier and offered only four Lok Sabha seats. Furthermore, sources said that they did not entertain any discussions on seat-sharing for the upcoming byelections to the 21 State Assembly constituencies or local body polls. The AIADMK had also reportedly offered two reserved constituencies.
The DMDK has been adamant on discussing seat-sharing only with the BJP but the latter appears to have told the party that the AIADMK is the senior alliance partner in the State. The party has been playing hardball with the AIADMK and demanded that it be treated on a par with PMK, which has been allotted seven Lok Sabha seats and one Rajya Sabha berth.
Speaking a second time after Mr. Sudhish’s press conference, Mr. Duraimurugan criticised him for having simultaneous parleys with the AIADMK-BJP and DMK. “Sudhish told me that he will go and tell the BJP minister that they don’t want to be a part of their alliance. They should take a stand. They can’t speak to both. There seems to be some problem,” he said, effectively shutting the door on an alliance.