Samajwadi Party’s Vijay Rath Yatra in Ayodhya, scheduled for January 9, has been cancelled as Covid cases continue to rise fuelled by the Omicron variant. Party chief Akhilesh Yadav has also called off his other rallies in Uttar Pradesh’s Gonda and Basti on January 7 and January 8.
Political parties are aggressively campaigning in the state in the build-up to the high-stakes February-March elections.
Last month, Akhilesh Yadav had cancelled another rally in western UP and said he would stay away from public events for three days after his wife and daughter tested positive.
Mr Yadav shared his Covid-negative report on Twitter and said he had taken the decision as a precautionary move since his family members have been infected.
On Wednesday, Congress had written to the Election Commission asking it to “cancel big rallies (in the state) in view of an anticipated third wave of Covid cases”. Congress has postponed all its events in the poll-bound state over the recent surge in cases believed to be driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. India reported 58,097 cases in 24 hours on Wednesday – the sixth daily increase in the past nine days.
“Congress has decided to postpone major rallies in UP and other poll-bound states. We have asked state units to assess the COVID-19 situation in their states and then take a decision on holding rallies,” the party’s General Secretary, KC Venugopal, was quoted by news agency ANI.
Meanwhile, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has also cancelled a government function in the state’s Gautam Buddh Nagar district scheduled for today. While no official reason was given, the district has reported the highest number of Covid cases from the state in the past week. The cancellation followed shocking scenes from UP’s Bareilly district Tuesday, where hundreds of women and teen girls were without masks during a party event that almost led to a near-stampede situation.
The Allahabad High Court last month had asked the Election Commission to defer the UP polls, even if only by a few months. However, after meeting with Health Ministry officials the Commission said the polls will be conducted as scheduled.
Some preventive measures were announced – including extending voting hours and increasing the number of voting booths – but the Commission shied away from immediately cracking down on political rallies attended by tens of thousands of and during which social distancing is absent.
UP reported 989 new cases in 24 hours on Wednesday, of which 23 were of the Omicron strain. Overall the state’s active Covid caseload is at 3,173 – 31 are Omicron infections.