The Congress has agreed to contest eight Lok Sabha seats from Tamil Nadu and the lone Puducherry which is holding in alliance with the DMK.
The deal has been finalised at a high-level meeting between Congress in charge for Tamil Nadu Mukul Wasnik and DMK president M K Stalin at a meeting in DMK headquarters on Wednesday evening.
This will leave the DMK with 31 seats in Tamil Nadu. It expected to allot one seat to the another existing ally ,the Indian Union Muslim League. Stalin also plans to accommodate the two communist parties, the Marumalarchi DMK of Vaiko and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi. Even if they are given one seat each, the DMK will be left with just 26 seats
The AIADMK is also likely to contest only that many seats after including actor Vijayakanth’s Desiya Murmokku Dravidar Kazhagam in its alliance.
Stalin needs these smaller parties to broad-base the alliance so as to take on the AIADMK-BJP-PMK front. For example, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal is not relevant for Lok Sabha. But its Dalit votes will counter-balance the Vanniar vote of Pattali Makkal Katchi in northern belt where both have concentrated presence.
Vaiko, though seen once as a rival to Stalin’s rise in the DMK and broke away from the parent party to form the MDMK in 1993, has had alliance with both the AIADMK under Jayalalitha and the BJP under A B Vajpayee. But in recent times he has turned against Modi-led BJP has been openly supporting the DMK.
He has served three terms in the Rajya Sabha as a DMK member and his experience will come in handy to the DMK. Moreover, he has some support in southern Tamil Nadu where the AIADMK is strong and the BJP also has pockets influence in Kanyakumari and Nagercoil. Vaiko has committed himself to work to make Stalin the next Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu .
The Kongu Vellalar Desiya Katchi leader Easwaran is not happy with the AIDMK-BJP alliance is likely to back the DMK front. His party is present in the Gounder belt in western Tamil Nadu where the AIADMK is strong.
More than the Lok Sabha elections, Stalin also has to factor the by-elections to 21 vacant seats in the Tamil Nadu Assembly the outcome of which will decide the fate of the Edappadi K Palanisami Government which has wafer thin majority after the disqualification of 18 of its rebel legislators.
For the AIADMK, the PMK’s support in the by-elections will give it an edge. Some of these constituencies are in the Vanniar belt where the PMK is strong.
The AIADMK has deferred for now talks with actor politician Vijayakanth’s DMDK as he has just come back from the US after treatment and is yet to fully recover. But in principle het has agreed to join the front. It will be a big boost to the AIADMK front.
With battle lines almost drawn, Tamil Nadu is set to see a straight fight between the two fronts.