Lok Sabha polls: Analysing the battle of east UP and the Priyanka factor

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. Photograph:( PTI )

Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India Mar 12, 2019, 12.11 PM (IST) Saurav Ojha

Former Congress president Sonia Gandhi's daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra officially started her career in active politics in February 2019, just a few months before general elections. Congress president Rahul Gandhi introduced her as general secretary in charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh. But the question is: Will she be a lucky charm for Congress in Uttar Pradesh?

Priyanka Gandhi is very famous in Amethi and Rae Bareli; she had campaigned during the 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha polls and Congress had won both the seats.

The eastern part of Uttar Pradesh accounts for 42 Lok Sabha seats from the sub-regions of Avadh and Purvanchal. In 2009, Congress won 21 seats in Uttar Pradesh and 15 of them were from east UP. In 2014, the tally was reduced to just two. So, Priyanka has a tough job at hand, especially because the region also includes Gorakhpur and Varanasi - the strongholds of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, respectively.

The 2014 Lok Sabha polls saw Congress getting 10 per cent of vote share in east Uttar Pradesh and winning just two seats - it's the pocket borough of Amethi and Rae Bareli.

Even if Congress's gamble pays off and Priyanka factor works for the party, it is not going to give a boost to the number of seats it won in last Lok Sabha elections. The reason is coming together of Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). With the SP-BSP combine at play in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, going by the last vote share, the BJP and its alliance partners are likely to get 37 seats, the SP, BSP and RLD 41, and Congress will remain at two.

If Congress gets two per cent more vote share and the SP-BSP combine loses out its two per cent, it will not translate into a seat for the INC. In fact, the SP-BSP loss is likely to benefit the BJP which can get 44 seats.

If there is a gain of three per cent to Congress and loss of three per cent to SP-BSP alliance, the beneficiary again will be BJP. This will increase its seats from 37 to 46 seats, SP-BSP alliance will get 33, and INC two.

The only scenario which can work for Congress is if Priyanka is able to garner 10 per cent more votes for the party. The Congress will then get four seats, but after coming together of SP and BSP, an upward swing of 10 per cent in favour of Congress looks nearly impossible.

If we look at the past, Priyanka had promised her mother Sonia Gandhi during the 2012 assembly election a perfect 10 in Rae Bareli and Amethi (both have five assembly constituencies each). But the party couldn't even win a single seat in Amethi.

Adding to the pressure is the SP-BSP alliance. In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, even though SP won just five seats and BSP failed to win a single seat, their combined vote share of 42.12 per cent was almost equal to 42.63 per cent of BJP which won 71 seats.

The political arithmetic, caste politics and alliance challenges make the going tough for Priyanka. The Congress is banking on her charisma to revive its fortunes in Uttar Pradesh. The poll bugle has been sounded, now it remains to be seen how she tackles the tough battle of eastern UP.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)

Saurav Ojha

The author is an Assistant Producer and researcher with Wion 

Story highlights

The political arithmetic, caste politics and alliance challenges make the going tough for Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.