The Uttar Pradesh by-polls are being seen as a test for Chief Minister Adityanath (pictured) ahead of the 2022 Assembly elections, and the opposition seems to have given his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, a walkover. Although the opposition — namely, the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and the Congress — have fielded candidates in all the 11 seats in Monday’s bypolls, their top guns were missing in action. While SP President Akhilesh Yadav canvassed only in Rampur for Tazeen Fatma, the wife of the party’s Muslim face Mohammed Azam Khan, BSP President Mayawati and Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra refrained from addressing public meetings and preferred the passive mode of attacking the Adityanath dispensation through social media and press releases.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Monday tweeted against the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Ramesh, a Rajya Sabha member, said: “Demonetisation. Botched GST. Now a third jhatka (jolt) with India likely to join the new trade accord called RCEP. This means: 1. More imports from China impacting Indian MSME; 2. Dairy imports from New Zealand and Australia hurting farmers/cooperatives, and 3. Free data flow compromising data security.” Ramesh’s tweet was contested by Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (the economic think tank of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) Co-convener Ashwani Mahajan, who said: “(It is) Strange (that the) Congress, which concluded disastrous ASEAN-FTA, Indo-Japan and India-South Korea FTAs and pushed into RCEP negotiation, is talking about fallouts of RCEP FTA. Will the Congress apologise before the nation for its wrongdoings in yesteryear?” However, Mahajan soon tweeted that Ramesh called to tell him that during the UPA years too he had opposed free-trade agreements.
The exit polls on Monday predicted a decimation of the Congress in the Assembly polls in Maharashtra and Haryana. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and his associates, including the party’s training department chief Sachin Rao, are busy planning the road ahead. Rao has been in touch with Gandhian institutions in Maharashtra to train Congress leaders and workers. These institutions have offered to educate Congress workers on Gandhian ideology, particularly the concept of satyagraha. But the leaderships of these institutions are worried whether the Congress would be comfortable with such training. Mahatma Gandhi believed people should not accept authority unquestioningly, and the institutions are afraid Congress workers might just turn around and question the dynastic hold in the Congress.