Maya's masterstroke to divide UP takes the edge off oppn attack

As electoral games go, Mayawati’s announcement to have a four-way division of Uttar Pradesh is a tactically brilliant move. With the political heat intensifying around her in the run up to the assembly polls, the timing could not be better.

It serves several purposes. First, the buzz around the new states distracts the public attention from issues like corruption, poor governance and declining law and order situation; second, it forces the opposition parties to take a position on new states at the risk of alienating support; third, it makes them rethink their strategy for the upcoming assembly polls from scratch; and four, it drags the Congress-led UPA at the centre into the picture and makes it a player in the polls.

The move reeks of political opportunism but to be fair to the BSP chief she has been talking about the reorganisation of the state for sometime now, citing difficulties in bringing administrative coherence in a huge Uttar Pradesh. It was only expected that she would use it as a electoral card at the opportune time.

It is no accident that her announcement comes a day after Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi launched his party’s election campaign with a blistering all-round attack on her performance as chief minister. Now, she leaves the Congress in a tricky situation. Once she passes the proposal for the creation of Bundelkhand, Western UP (Harit Pradesh) and Poorvanchal in the assembly, the ball moves to the centre’s court.

Mayawati has proposed a four-way diversion of UP, but there’s no guarantee that small states are a solution to its problems, which have to do with bad leadership and political short-sightedness.

The centre is in no position to take a quick decision given its nationwide repercussion and the constitutional process involved. While the UPA government is at it, Mayawati can milk the issue by blaming the Congress for being blind to the needs of the state. It also leaves the proposed Congress and Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance in Western UP in jeopardy.

The Samajwadi Party — a considerably weak force after Amar Singh left the party and with Mulayam Singh away from the thick of action as party chief — stands to lose because its vote base is at the risk of getting scattered and of turning electorally irrelevant. Always opposed to the division of the state, the party has decided to fight Mayawati’s proposal tooth and nail.

The BJP, which has been an advocate of smaller states, is not comfortable with the chief minister’s idea. "It’s a highly opportunist move and politically motivated. She should have first got the resolution passed in the UP assembly. Mayawati has not taken the mandate of the people before proposing division of state into four parts," party’s leader Balbir Punj told the media. The party is actually worried that all the groundwork it has done and all the caste, community calculations it has worked out so far might go waste.

However, it is difficult to believe that Mayawati is too serious. If her proposal gets implemented she will be left with a state with 15-odd districts to rule; at present UP has 75 districts. It does not matter much in terms of political influence, particularly for a leader who has national ambitions.

Moreover, there’s no great movement on the ground for the new states. The Bundelkhand statehood issue has been around for sometime but it is in no way as strong as the Telangana statehood demand. The same is true of Harit Pradesh and Poorvanchal.

Again, there’s no guarantee that small states are a solution to UP’s problems, which have basically to do with bad leadership and political short-sightedness. The Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Uttarakhand experiments have not worked well.

Of course, Mayawati would be aware of that. But right now what she needs is to shift the public attention from her weaknesses on several fronts.

From the look of it, she has managed it well.

Updated Date: Nov 15, 2011 17:56 PM

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