As the seasons change, there is a spring in the step of the Congress which suggests that a long and harsh summer in the political wilderness maybe ending. Rahul Gandhi is finally set to take over the party leadership, there is a buzz around the Congress’ aggressive social media strategy, new anti-BJP alliances are being cemented in poll-bound Gujarat, demonetisation and GST have become useful weapons to attack the government and open rebellion by senior BJP leaders like Yashwant Sinha has given further ammunition to the Opposition.

To understand vox populi on the Uttar Pradesh assembly election, India Today's Rajdeep Sardesai takes you through the 'Land of Awadh'.

We meet voters to understand will the alliance between Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party and Congress replicate the success of 2012? Or will Narendra Modi and the BJP will be able to build up on the momentum of the spectactular 2014 Lok Sabha elections? Or will Mayawati remain as the x-factor?

Five years is an eternity in Indian politics. As Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav beamed beatifically into the cameras last weekend, the mind was thrown back to 2012 when just ahead of the Uttar Pradesh elections, Gandhi had delivered a solo performance, stressing that the Congress was in UP for the long haul, and would fight the region-based caste parties like the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. “The Congress doesn’t look at a single election, we have a 10 year plan,” he had boldly claimed then.

We want a Congress Mukt Bharat,” thundered Narendra Modi in the 2014 general election campaign, a slogan echoed repeatedly BJP president, Amit Shah. The declared goal was not just to win an election, but to “eliminate” the Congress from the country’s national political map. Two years later, the Modi-Shah duo’s ambition is on track. If at the start of 2016, the Congress was ruling in nine states, it is now in charge in just seven states after its governments were dismissed in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

News channels always face a ‘dharam sankat’ when Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi speak at the same time. In the last few years the tendency has been to relentlessly focus the cameras on Mr Modi while the Congress leader’s speech is routinely muted or becomes a deferred telecast in what might be seen as an accurate reflection of the two leaders’ contrasting political fortunes.

It’s that time of the year: The bells are ringing and carols are being sung. Since this is my last column of 2015, maybe it’s time to look ahead to a New Year with our netas’ resolutions for 2016, without malice but with a bit of fun (why should edit page columns always be stodgy!).

Daughters can be unusually prescient: Taking a first look at my book, 2014: The Election that Changed India, she asked why the cover had pictures of both Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. “Shouldn’t you just be showing Mr Modi, he is after all the big winner, why do you need a Rahul picture also?” “Because,” I replied, “For every winner, you need a loser!”

Boxing films have always enthralled me. As a teenager, the Rocky series was inspirational. Raging Bull, the story of Jake La Motta, is probably the gold standard for all sports films, with Robert de Niro at his histrionic best. Other boxing films like The Fighter and Million Dollar Baby have also been captivating.

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The 2014 Indian general elections has been regarded as the most important elections in Indian history since 1977.
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