An analysis of the Lok Sabha election results shows that the Congress just about improved its 2014 vote share of 5.39 per cent to 7.96 per cent these polls in the 41 seats of eastern UP, where Priyanka was the party’s general secretary in-charge.
She was, instead, far more effective in helping the BJP gain five additional seats in eastern UP — by fielding Congress candidates and eating into the vote-banks of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The Congress candidates were instrumental in the loss of two seats to the SP and three to the BSP in the region.
The Congress, which was kept out of the SP-BSP-RLD alliance, also managed to deny these parties three seats in western Uttar Pradesh, the results show.
The national party put on a disastrous show in the state, winning just one seat — Rae Bareli — while losing its overall vote share. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress secured 6.31 per cent of the votes in the 80 UP constituencies, down by 1.22 per cent from 2014.
The Congress no show
Congress president Rahul Gandhi appointed sister Priyanka general secretary in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh on 23 January, about two weeks after the SP and the BSP declared their alliance, keeping the Congress out in Uttar Pradesh.
She along with Jyotiraditya Scindia, who was made in-charge of western UP, were meant to revive the party’s fortunes in the state. Priyanka campaigned extensively in eastern UP — by water, road and air.
The Congress also reached an implicit understanding with the SP and both parties fielded weak candidates against one another’s potential winners. The Congress and the BSP, however, fought like old foes as the Congress was extremely upset with Mayawati for keeping it out of the alliance.
None of this mattered on the ground, however, as both parties lost out due to the Congress presence, particularly in eastern UP.
Eating of votes in eastern UP
The Congress candidates ate into the gathbandan vote-share, helping the BJP in at least five seats in eastern Uttar Pradesh.
In Sant Kabir Nagar, for instance, the Congress fielded former SP MP Bhal Chand Yadav. He finished third, securing 1.28 lakh votes even as the BSP’s Bheeshma Shankar lost to the BJP’s Praveen Kumar Nishad by 35,268 votes.
In Sultanpur, Union Minister Maneka Gandhi defeated the BSP’s Chandbhadra Singh by just 13,859 votes. The Congress’ Sanjay Sinh finished third here with 41,588 votes.
Similarly, in Basti, the Congress candidate Raj Kishor Singh secured over 86,000 votes while the BSP’s Ram Prasad Chaudhary lost to the BJP’s Harish Chandra by 31,573 votes.
The SP also paid a price for this ‘friendly fire’. In Banda, the BJP’s R.K. Singh beat the SP’s Shyama Charan Gupta by 58,453 votes. The Congress’ Balkumar Patel finished third here with 75,350 votes.
It was no better in Barabanki where the BJP’s Upendra Singh Rawat beat SP’s Ram Sagar Rawat by 1,09,970 votes. The Congress candidate Tanuj Punia secured 1,59,575 votes.