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Akhilesh's epic fail: Is the division of Uttar Pradesh next on BJP agenda?

The apparent breakdown of law and order in Uttar Pradesh has brought back to the forefront long standing proposals to carve out multiple states from the large and unwieldy state of Uttar Pradesh. Amid the rising incidence of sexual violence and murders in the state following the macabre hanging of two Dalit girls who were raped in Badaun, a report in The Economic Times says top BJP leaders are once again considering the merits of carving out multiple administrative units from the state with 80 Lok Sabha seats.

 Akhileshs epic fail: Is the division of Uttar Pradesh next on BJP agenda?

Akhilesh Yadav. AFP

This isn't a new idea. The BJP has for long been an advocate of smaller states, the report points out, adding that it was the BJP-led NDA government under Atal Behari Vajpayee which carved out Uttarakhand from UP, Jharkhand from Bihar and Chhattisgarh from Madhya Pradesh. The outcome has been positive these cases -- administration and governance of these smaller states have been less saddled with confusion and delays.

The BSP is unlikely to oppose any small state plan. In 2011, under Mayawati as chief minister, the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly passed a resolution to create the new states. According to ET, the division envisaged by the UP Assembly resolution may not be viable. "The biggest problem would be the communally polarised area of Harit Pradesh," the report said.

Mayawati's plan involved the creation of "Paschim Pradesh" or Western UP, comprising 22 districts including Meerut and Ghaziabad. Awadh Pradesh with 14 districts would have Lucknow as its capital. Bundelkhand would be contiguous with Madhya Pradesh and Poorvanchal, comprising 22 districts of eastern UP.

The starting point of the BJP's discussions on the issue could instead revolve around awarding special status to the backward regions of Bundelkhand and Poorvanchal. The new union government could introduce a Bill on the issue, the report suggested.

The failure of the Akhilesh government in maintaining law and order provides justification for reviving the subject of smaller states, BJP leaders have said. While the chief minister has discussed with the governor what action his government will take in the Badaun case, the Centre has said it will intervene if the UP governor sends a report recommending intervention. For Akhilesh, whose governance has come in for stiff criticism over the past six months, it is a critical time.

For some time now, the politics of Uttar Pradesh has followed a familiar framework -- the BJP courting upper castes nervous about the bahujan castes' rising influence, Samajwadi Party wooing Muslims nervous about the BJP and  Bahujan Samaj Party mobilising Dalits who see both the BJP and SP as blocking their progress.

The Bharatiya Janata Party's 2014 campaign, however, turned that around on its head by talking of development, entrepreneurship, jobs, manufacturing and investment -- even if Amit Shah may have taken into account caste considerations and completed some nifty mathematics in selection of candidates, campaign managers, polling agents and more.  The other BJP strategy to get around typical caste calculations was to play the soft Hindutva card to unite upper and OBC and even Dalit votes.

The political investment in keeping the unwieldy state together has disappeared for the BJP, but alsothe Congress.

The Congress may have wanted to keep the state as it is because much of its top leadership came from UP and comprehensively controlled large regions of the state. After the 2014 mandate, the Congress need not hide behind this argument -- the party is decimated in all regions of the state and will be looking to rebuild itself from scratch even in the pocket boroughs of the Gandhi heartland, so a division of the state should make little difference. With Mayawati long on board, a partition of UP looks likelier than ever. If it does, then the Akhilesh government will be remembered as the one which presided over its breakup.

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Updated Date: Jun 04, 2014 15:51:27 IST