DMK President MK Stalin announces seat sharing pact with Congress. (Source: ANI)

Rahul Gandhi's Congress Strikes Alliance With Tamil Party DMK

(Bloomberg) -- The Indian National Congress party today announced an alliance with the regional Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam to jointly contest federal elections in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

The Congress party, headed by Rahul Gandhi, will contest 9 seats, DMK President M.K. Stalin said in the southern state’s capital Chennai today. The regional party will decide on the number of seats it will contest after talking to other partners, he said.

Gandhi’s party, which was reduced to a mere 44 seats in the 2014 federal elections, needs to strengthen its position in southern India to have a chance to expand its presence or form a government at the federal level this year. Tamil Nadu sends 39 lawmakers to the 543-member lower house of parliament, or Lok Sabha, for which elections are due by May.

Strong alliances are a key for Rahul Gandhi to further consolidate his party’s recent electoral gains after it managed to wrest control of three key states -- Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh from the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. Last May, BJP failed to form a government in Karnataka where Congress is now ruling with local alliance partner Janata Dal (Secular).

The Congress-DMK alliance comes after BJP formed an electoral understanding with the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the third-largest party in the lower house of Parliament, and a smaller party, Pattali Makkal Katchi, to fight elections in the southern state. Earlier this week, the BJP also struck an alliance with the powerful regional group Shiv Sena to contest elections jointly in India’s richest state, Maharashtra.

The Congress party is also working with small regional parties to build state-specific coalitions. Two powerful regional parties -- Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party -- have announced that they will fight elections together in the country’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh.

The BJP had forged an alliance with as many as 28 parties in 2014, even though it got enough seats on its own for a majority. The Congress had 10 partners in the last elections.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.