The issue of division of Uttar Pradesh has once again taken centre stage with BSP supremo Mayawati raking up the issue that had been lying dormant until now.
In Mayawati's opinion, low literacy rates, near absent modern healthcare facilities and shoddy public infrastructure in underdeveloped pockets of interior Uttar Pradesh can only be fixed by dividing the state into four smaller parts.
Speaking at an election rally in Gorakhpur, Mayawati reiterated her plans to divide the state into four smaller states, stating that it was the only way to develop these pockets, according to Hindustan Times.
She said that the people must punish the Samajwadi Party, Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party for opposing the creation of a separate Purvanchal state.
This was not the first time that Mayawati had talked of dividing the state into four parts.
According to India Today, in 2011, towards the end of her term as chief minister, Mayawati's BSP had tabled a resolution for a four-way-split in the most populous Indian state.
In what was one of the shortest Winter Sessions in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly that lasted merely 10 minutes, the BSP supremo stumped the Opposition by tabling the motion, which was not on the official business list of the House . The resolution was passed within minutes with a voice vote amid unprecedented pandemonium in the House and the Assembly was adjourned sine die after it.
This was, at the time, considered as a deft political move to corner the Congress government at Centre to take a stand on the issue and also whip up regional sentiments that could ward-off anti-incumbency against the BSP.
However, the last minute decision, as we know today, did little to benefit the BSP chief and Samajwadi Party registered a sweeping victory, caving through the support base of both BSP and the BJP.
Earlier in 2009, amid the quandary over dividing Andhra Pradesh, Mayawati too shot off a letter to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh raising the demand of a divided Uttar Pradesh.
The issue of division of Uttar Pradesh had been lying dormant till now with major political parties including the BSP preferring silence. Though there had been demands from different quarters, it was the BSP which had taken a concrete step in this direction by passing a resolution for the division of Uttar Pradesh.
The move, which is written off as an election gimmick by her opponents, may give Mayawati some leverage this time. The law and order situation is a key electoral agenda picked up by Samajwadi Party's opponents. Mayawati could use it to corner the Samajwadi Party on development and law and order issues, maintaining that smaller states could be governed better. Plus unequal development between urban and rural pockets has been another issue, and the humongous size of the state is considered one of the reasons why governance has failed to penetrate such issues.
Therefore, if Mayawati successfully sells the idea to the electorate, it may sway voters dealing with an abysmal law and order situation,
Secondly, as is pointed out in this Firstpost article, the division of the state was one of Ambedkar's initial ideas, as he has mentioned in his book Bhashayi Rajya. By taking his ideas forward, Mayawati can stake claim at Ambedkar's legacy, once again, and try to woo her core electoral base, Dalits.
The new states
The proposed division includes carving out four states: Purvanchal Pradesh (Easter UP), Awadh Pradesh (Central UP, including the Lucknow belt), Bundelkhand (the Jhansi-Mahoba belt), and Pashchim Pradesh (Western UP), according to The Indian Express.
Meanwhile, the Samajwadi Party has been staunchly opposing the division of the state. "Small, unviable states will lead to Naxal activity and expose the nation's sensitive borders," Mulayam Singh Yadav had said clarifying his stand at the time, as reported by NDTV. The Congress, has remained non-committal since then, dodging the debate and laying out a clear stand.
However, it has ignored the issue in its campaign fearing that such a development might harm its electoral prospects while giving an edge to Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) headed by Ajit Singh, BJP and Congress.
The BJP, however, has been a long-time supporter of smaller states, thus it will find it difficult to completely deny Mayawati's demands. It is instructive to note here that Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh were carved out with a BJP government at the helm in the Centre.
The saffron party has, however, preferre to skirt the issue in this election although it recently used to emphasise on recognising regional aspirations.
In 2011, however, the party had maintained that it was not averse to the idea of smaller units, which makes governance simpler. However, it added that the BJP does not support the way Mayawati wants to divide the state.
"The party (BJP) is in favour of small states but against how Mayawati plans to divide the state. A state reorganization committee should be formed and hold discussions on economic and developmental issues. If needed, then we can go through with it," The Hindu quoted a BJP spokesperson as saying.
Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Ajit Singh, who wields influence in the western belt of Uttar Pradesh, had also come out in support of the idea of smaller states. "Western UP contributes 72 percent of the State's total income. In turn, just 18 percent of the budget is spent on its development. This makes the people of the area dissatisfied," as quoted in The Hindu.
Besides RLD, Raja Bundela's Bundelkhand Congress, Kalyan Singh's erstwhile Jan Kranti Party, Amar Singh's now defunct Rashtriya Lok Manch and Ayub Khan's Peace Party — all pitched for division of the state — but most of them drew a blank in the Assembly elections in 2012.
While Mayawati's strength dropped to 80 seats from 206, RLD got nine — one less than the previous tally, and Peace Party could get only four. On the other hand, Samajwadi Party, the only party to oppose the demand, stormed to power with a landslide victory, bagging 224 of the 403 Assembly seats.
Analysts said one reason could be the fact that people took pride in being residents of one of the country's largest state and did not wish to give up that identity.
With inputs from PTI
Published Date: Feb 27, 2017 04:11 pm | Updated Date: Feb 27, 2017 04:11 pm