TN polls: AIADMK steals march on DMK, clinches deal with ally

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(Adds details, recasts) Chennai, Feb 27 (PTI) The ruling AIADMK on Saturday finalised seat sharing with ally Pattali Makkal Katchi and held parleys with BJP for the April 6 Assembly polls, a day after the Election Commission announced the election schedule.

AIADMK Coordinator and and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam announced that his party and PMK have decided to face the election as allies.

As per the agreement reached between AIADMK and PMK, 23 seats have been allotted to PMK in the ruling party-led alliance, he said.

By concluding the pact, the ruling party managed to steal a march over arch-rival DMK, which has named a committee led by its senior leader T R Baalu to hold talks with alliance partners including the Congress and Left parties on seat sharing.

The poll deal was signed in the presence of Chief Minister K Palaniswami and PMK president G K Mani and party Rajya Sabha member Anbumani Ramadoss. The constituencies to be contested by the PMK would be identified and made known later.

Anbumani Ramadoss, PMK youth wing chief, said his party would fight polls together with the AIADMK and the ruling party-led combine would register a big win in the Assembly polls.

He said his party agreed for a 'reduced' count of seats taking into consideration the government fulfilling their long time demand of a separate reservation for Vanniyars in jobs and in admission to educational institutions.

His party founder and father Ramadoss had struggled for four decades to get the quota demand fulfilled, he said.

On Friday, the Assembly passed a Bill envisaging 10.50 per cent internal reservation for Vanniyars, a Most Backward Community.

In 2016, the PMK had contested the Assembly elections all alone and secured a 5.30 per cent vote share. While the word 'Pattali' in Tamil meant the working class, Makkal refers to people and Katchi stands for party.

The AIADMK had contested in 227 out of the 234 seats, earmarking the remaining seven seats for allies and retained power by winning 134 constituencies and the rival front led by DMK won 98 segments.

A BJP delegation, including Union Minister Kishan Reddy and in-charge of Tamil Nadu C T Ravi, state party chief L Murugan, held talks with Palaniswami and Panneerselvam.

Speaking to reporters, Murugan said talks have been held with the AIADMK leadership, adding, seat sharing agreement would be inked soon. As many as '60 winnable seats,' have been identified, a Saffron party leader said.

AIADMK is also holding talks with the Vijayakanth-led DMDK, details of which is yet to emerge.

Chief Minister K Palaniswami in his address in the Assembly, which was adjourned sine die today, said the AIADMK would win in a majority of seats and form Amma's (Jayalalithaa) government again in Tamil Nadu.

His party's allies would also win in constituencies earmarked for them, he said.

After he assumed office in February 2017, Leader of opposition M K Stalin had made false and defamatory propaganda claiming that his government would not last long, the chief minister said.

However, the CM said he successfully led the government all along and ushered in innumerable welfare schemes for the people. The AIADMK wrested the reins of power from DMK in 2011 and retained power in 2016.

Health Minister C Vijayabaskar hailed the CM as an 'avatara purushar' for his slew of measures including 7.5 per cent quota for government school students (who clear National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) in admission to medical courses.

Tamil Culture Minister K Pandiarajan too referred to the CM as 'avatara purushar' and hailed him as a 'guardian of arts.' PTI VGN JSP SA BN BN