DMK president MK Stalin seemed to return to square one on March 5 — he finalised pre-election seat-sharing agreements with all allies, ending up with the same team with whom he began the journey.
The decision came after hiccups along the way that threatened to derail relationships within a team that had been working in tandem against the Union and state governments for about two years.
This will be the first election that Stalin is leading the party into after the demise of M Karunanidhi in August, 2018. Although he acted quickly to seal an agreement with the Congress, Stalin’s decision to engage the PMK and the DMDK caused heartburn among parties that had been working alongside the DMK in the hope of sealing a progressive, secular alliance.
Stalin’s attempt to stitch up an alliance with the PMK evidently riled up the VCK. And the PMK being left out of the alliance and eventually signing up with the AIADMK-led alliance, came as a relief for the VCK. VCK leader Thol Thirumavalavan, after sealing the deal, revealed that he was disappointed with the DMK and that he had even mulled going solo in the polls. He told The Hindu, “Of course, we were upset because we were initially offered only a single seat. I even thought of contesting alone. But I never gave a thought to the idea of joining hands with Dhinakaran.”
Later, Stalin’s attempts at wooing with the DMDK – he visited party founder Vijayakant at his residence – delayed the seat-sharing talks further. This meant that a second round of talks scheduled with the Communist parties and the MDMK were put off while the DMK waited on Vijayakant.
Over the weekend, the DMDK signalled that it would prefer to work with the AIADMK and the BJP. Stalin acted quickly, attempting to close to deal with five parties on the same day; he was delayed by a day, thanks to the MDMK and the CPI-M taking their draft agreements home for another day’s discussions.
By the end of March 5, Tamil Nadu has seen the return of a familiar team: with the exception of the IJK and KDMK, all the parties who were given seats by the DMK have worked together for a while now. The same leaders who shared space for some of the most prominent anti-government agitations in the recent past have decided to stay together, after all. Stalin will hope that the chemistry the team has acquired after working together on common platforms like NEET, Jallikattu and Sterlite will help this alliance perform better in the election.