Priyanka to eat into BJP votes in UP?

Whenever a journalist reports on the political mood of a place, chances are they have spoken to their cabdriver. So, when I had to take an Uber the other day, I, too, decided to gauge the Mood of the Nation. Does Rahul stand a chance against Modi, I asked my cabbie. No way, said the Übermensch. But, he added, if Priyanka were to campaign, Modi would be in trouble.
Clearly, the Congress party was listening in. Within 48 hours, it had announced Priyanka’s political debut. She is like Indira Gandhi, opined the guard next door, as he caught me on the way to the local Mother Dairy. She is destined for greatness, said my mother’s domestic help, who had named her daughter Priyanka some 20 years ago. And, mind you, both of them voted for Modi in 2014.
The Congress has pinned its hopes on Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s much talked about mass connect and natural charisma to revive its lost base in Uttar Pradesh
But does Uttar Pradesh care? Will Priyanka generate enough of a groundswell to upset electoral equations in the state? And who will the Priyanka Factor dent, if at all? Will she eat into the upper-caste, better educated, more affluent urban vote share and cause problems for the BJP? Or will she take away a sizeable chunk of the Muslim vote and hit the SP-BSP combine?
Priyanka has been given charge of 41 out of UP’s 80 Lok Sabha seats. In 2014, the Congress didn’t put up a candidate in only one of these seats, Fatehpur Sikri. Excluding that, during the Modi Wave, the party averaged nearly 10% vote share in these Eastern UP seats. Five years before that, the Congress contested 35 of the 41 seats and averaged more than 20% votes. Even in 2014, at the nadir of its popularity, the Congress got more than one lakh votes in 15 of these seats and more than 15% vote share in eight of them.
Eastern Uttar Pradesh currently has strongholds of both Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Prime Minister Narendra Modi
The first thing to note is that most of the ‘Priyanka seats’ have a relatively low Muslim population. Only 10 or less than a fourth have a Muslim population of more than 20%. In other words, Muslims are not a decisive factor here. They aren’t big enough to provide a winning bloc of votes to any one party. Neither can they be set up as the ‘other’ to polarise Hindu votes. This is important, because a division of the Muslim vote between the Congress and the SP-BSP alliance is not going to have as big an impact as it would in seats where Muslims make up a large chunk of the electorate.
Let’s now take a closer look at the eight seats where the Congress got more than 15% votes in 2014. Out of these, Amethi and Raebareli elected the Gandhis to parliament even in their 2014 debacle. In the remaining six, the Congress averaged about 21% vote share, just 7% behind the combined votes of the SP and BSP.