Divide Uttar Pradesh, Rule the Country…!

By Pandit Tushar Charan
The ambitions of UP chief minister and BSP supremo, Mayawati, have taken her to demand division of India’s largest state into four separate entities—Paschim Pradesh, Awadh Pradesh, Poorvanchal Pradesh and Bundelkhand. She stumped the opposition when she sought permission in the UP state assembly to carve four states out of Uttar Pradesh.

Her supporter have started seeing the vision of BSP, at present a one-state wonder, taking over the reins of four states, giving four chief ministers to the country. Of course, politicians will also be dreaming of vacancies of Governor’s post in four more states. And not forgetting the real estate developers, the most powerful and richest lobby in India, will be salivating at the prospect of grabbing land to expand their construction business and amassing still more wealth. 

Amidst total confusion and pandemonium Uttar Pradesh assembly gave its permission with a voice vote and in a matter of about five minutes her wish for dividing the most politically important state of India, had been granted—by her own party legislators. A special session of the assembly called to take up the issue over two days ended within minutes. 

The dramatic manner in which the ‘division’ resolution was introduced and passed has been interpreted as a political gimmick—some call it a gamble—with an eye on the forthcoming assembly poll. It has created quite a stir because other than the BSP, the other parties in Uttar Pradesh are not quite sure how to respond effectively to her move.

Support the UP division demand and you concede advantage to Mayawati and her party for taking the first tangible step even if that amounts to ‘balkanisation’ of UP. Oppose it and you may well find facing the wrath of a sizeable section of the voters who do want new states. Neither scenario will be welcome to political parties when the polls in the state are so near.

Mayawati can also have the last laugh because while her rivals struggle to find an effective strategy to counter her move, she knows perfectly well that there is no chance of UP being divided in the immediate future. The division of the state has to get approval of the Government of India and Parliament, something that is not possible at least during this winter.

Yet, the BSP supremo has made sure that the UP division issue would figure in the state assembly poll campaign, forcing other political parties to be more precise as to where they stand. Ambivalence on the issue by any party would be in contrast to her clear demand, and poll slogan - one vote –four states. 

When the issue gets debated on public platforms certain questions are bound to come to the fore and that is where some doubts may arise as to the wisdom of Mayawati presenting a fait accompli on UP division.  

Take the four Pradeshs she wants carved out. The Paschim Pradesh of her prescription will be sharply divided into two lobbies. One in favour of Meerut as the capital of the proposed new state and the other pressing the case of Agra, a one-time capital of Moghul India. The Meerut lobby will enjoy support from Ajit Singh as his constituency is close to the city; the community of Jats, whose interests he represents is a bigger political factor in the area around Meerut than Agra. 

Bundelkhand demand will be meaningless if certain adjoining districts in Madhya Pradesh are not incorporated in the proposed state. BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh will not allow ‘secession’ of its Bundelkhandi districts to a new state where BSP may well be installed in power.       

The Meerut vs. Agra fight may not assume serious proportions when the question of division of UP is taken up seriously. The matter that will demand more attention then will be the question of economic viability of the new states.

It is already being said Bundelkhand may be reduced to a basket case while the other three will be viable. That may not be so in reality because much of UP has remained backward not only in terms of industries but also agricultural practices, and social indices. Some of these flaws do not appear glaring geographically at present because of the composite nature of the state.

Since the fifties the concept of small states has many takers. In fact, when the maps of the states were being redrawn on linguistic basis, there were eminent persons and politicians speaking in favour of small states. Their advocacy was not based on political expediency; those were the days when politicians were comparatively selfless. Today the demand for a new state is more to do with politics than economics, good governance or people’s well-being.

After the division of some of the big states in recent years, it has been proved that small is not necessarily beautiful. A small state can be as misgoverned as a big one. It all depends on the politicians and the political culture of the state concerned. It will be useful to remember that politicians in composite Uttar Pradesh do not exactly have a good reputation for probity and possession of qualities for good governance. 

At a time when global meltdown has started to cast an ominous shadow over ‘shining’ India, it will look criminal if lot of public money is ‘wasted’ on building all the infrastructure that a new state would require. The High Court may be shared, but four states separated by hundreds of miles cannot possibly share a capital. 

Finally, while the politicians may talk of division of UP in changing tones, there has never been a strong grassroots support for dividing the state into four pieces. Uttrakhand was possible because there was indeed a local demand. Telangana has been an issue for long. Nothing that even remotely equals in emotional term the demand for Telangana was ever heard in any part of Uttar Pradesh. Of course, it is unclear whether the people of Uttar Pradesh will actively oppose any move to divide their state like what the people of coastal Andhra are doing at present in the face of stiff demand for Telangana from people of districts once under the Nizam of Hyderabad. (Syndicate Features)

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