Election results 2024: The similarities between two very different States


A Samajwadi Party supporter carries portraits of party leader Akhilesh Yadav and Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi as he celebrates his party’s lead during the counting of votes in India’s national election in Lucknow.

A Samajwadi Party supporter carries portraits of party leader Akhilesh Yadav and Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi as he celebrates his party’s lead during the counting of votes in India’s national election in Lucknow.
| Photo Credit: AP

Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have little in common. The landlocked State of Uttar Pradesh is the largest in the Hindi heartland. It is one of the poorest States by per capita income and depends heavily on services and agriculture to employ citizens. Tamil Nadu is a coastal State in the deep south. It is among the richest States with a strong industrial and manufacturing base and houses perhaps the lowest share of Hindi-speaking people. U.P. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is a Hindutva hard-liner who wears his religiosity literally on his sleeve and does not shy away from blatant dog-whistling and minority-bashing to secure votes for his party. On the other hand, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin belongs to the DMK, a party that comes from a tradition of rationalism. He leads the Secular Progressive Alliance that includes parties that share an ideological oneness on the key issue of the plurality of the Indian nation.

In 2019, the DMK-led alliance in Tamil Nadu scored an emphatic victory against a BJP that was peaking in the Lok Sabha elections in almost every other State, while the Adityanath-led BJP in U.P. decisively defeated a ‘Bahujan’ coalition of the SP and the BSP.

The case of Tamil Nadu

Yet, in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, these two States showed some remarkable similarities. The DMK-led alliance in Tamil Nadu secured all the 39 seats (plus one in Puducherry), which could be explained by some as the consequence of the splintering of the BJP-AIADMK alliance. But that would only be a partial reading. The collective vote share of the DMK-led alliance was nearly 10% points higher than that of the combined vote shares of the AIADMK and BJP-led alliances. The fact remains that this victory was yet another ideological defeat of the BJP and the politics that it stands for.

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The DMK built its support base on the ideology of social justice. Among the others in the alliance, the Congress seeks to remain the legatee of the organisation that led the freedom movement and embodied the secular Constitution after Independence; the Left aspires to make the idea of economic justice and equality more broad-based; and the VCK represents the interests of the marginalised Dalits in the State. The ideological coherence of this alliance was made possible by each of these parties shedding some of their respective antipathies towards each other: the DMK’s acceptance of the Congress as an ally required it to tone down its strident Tamil sub-nationalism in favour of an inclusive idea of a federal India, while the Congress aligned with the DMK despite historical differences. The Left aligned with the Congress by overcoming its own ideological reading of the latter as a representative of its class antagonists, while the VCK overcame the idea of being a “Dalit exclusionary” party to find common strands that connected it with its allies. The communitarian IUML also adopted the language of secularism to secure its place in the alliance.

The BJP’s emphasis on Hindutva, jingoism, social harmony between the privileged and the marginalised, and status quo over social justice, and the suzerainty of its one leader over that of a coalition of parties in power, rendered the DMK-led alliance a natural ideological adversary of it.

The case of U.P.

Meanwhile, the Samajwadi Party and the Congress coalition also managed a cohesion that went beyond an alliance of necessity. The SP adopted a new language of social justice that transcended old Mandal politics. It sought to represent the aspirations of a new coalition of “Pichdas” (backwards), Dalits, Alpasankyaks (minorities), and Adivasis. It did so by fielding candidates from different Other Backward Classes and groups beyond its Yadav-Muslim base. The Congress made a strong pitch for safeguarding the Constitution and projected itself as a legitimate vehicle of social justice. This ideological clarity brought the coalition substantial dividends.

A large section of people belonging to the “Bahujan” coalition of Dalits, backward communities, and minorities repeatedly emphasised their fear about changes to the Constitution, despaired over the ruling government’s apathy towards their joblessness and poverty, and expressed anger over corruption in examinations for government postings. It was clear that the coalition’s agenda was making a mark in the elections. Despite its best efforts to polarise the electorate, the BJP could manage less than half the seats in the State to which Ayodhya belongs (as part of Faizabad constituency).

After years in the wilderness, the Congress won six seats in U.P., while the SP won 37 out of the 80 seats. The 43-seat haul in U.P. and the sweep of 40 seats in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry provided a large bulk of INDIA’s wins. Importantly, it also brought out the commonalities in the politics of social justice in two different States.

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