2019 Lok Sabha elections: BJP, AIADMK likely to split seats in Tamil Nadu

Arun Janardhanan
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edapaddi K Palaniswami (Twitter/@PMOIndia)

The first round of alliance talks between the BJP and the AIADMK have come to an end, and highly-placed sources in the Tamil Nadu-based party have said that a deal has already been struck between the two for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

On Friday, a top AIADMK leader said the two parties have managed to reach a basic understanding of sharing 50 per cent of Lok Sabha seats in the proposed alliance. "Out of 40 seats (including one in the Union territory Puducherry) before us, we have an understanding to share 20 seats with BJP. It is also certain that BJP will be sharing seats with PMK (founded by S Ramadoss) and DMDK (led by Captain Vijayakanth) from their 20 seats," the leader said. Read this story in Tamil

S P Velumani and P Thangamani - the seniormost AIADMK ministers close to Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami - held this round of talks with Union minister Piyush Goyal representing the BJP. "(Union minister) Arun Jaitley also played a role in taking these talks to a successful point," said a senior BJP leader.

Multiple sources in both the AIADMK and BJP who were part of the talks confirmed that 20 seats would be reserved for AIADMK alone, while the BJP will share its 20 seats with PMK and DMDK. The development comes a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing booth workers in Tamil Nadu via video conferencing, said his party cherished its old allies and said that the doors are always open for "old friends".

"DMDK may be getting four seats, while PMK may get six. Powerful businessman Pachamuthu Parivendar of SRM Group, E R Eswaran of Kongunadu Makkal Desia Katchi (KMDK), a locally powerful Gounder community leader, and the Dalit party Puthiya Tamilagam of K Krishnasamy are other potential allies to get one seat each from BJP's share," a BJP source said.

"South Chennai, Coimbatore, Trichy and Kanyakumari are among the finalised seats where we will contest on the party symbol. Talks on either of the Madurai, Salem, Ramanathapuram seats or a seat in northern Tamil Nadu as well as in the Delta region in Tanjavur are still in progress," the source said.

The alliance talks, however, have seemingly left two prominent leaders in the lurch - Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, and AIADMK rebel and AMMK founder T T V Dhinakaran. A senior AIADMK leader said Panneerselvam also fears that he will lose his MLA position by March, when the verdict in a disproportionate assets case will be announced.

Senior leader V Maitreyan, who is close to the O Panneerselvam camp in AIADMK, said Modi made the remarks on his capacity as a BJP leader to his own party cadres. "That was his point of view. We will take a decision closer to the elections. However, it is almost certain that a bruised BJP is likely to form the government in the next Lok Sabha polls," Maitreyan said.

Meanwhile, the AIADMK leadership has adopted a strategy of remaining non-committal in its statements about the alliance. M Thambidurai, Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker and AIADMK's face in Delhi, said he was not aware of talks with the BJP. "My party leadership hasn't told me anything about such talks. Officially, we haven't decided anything. The friendship between (former AIADMK supremo) late J Jayalalithaa and PM Modi had nothing to do with their political decisions. After her death too, we refused to agree with many policies of the Centre," he said.