Division politics

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati may use the issue of division of the state as a potent weapon in the coming elections to the state assembly. The winter session of the state Assembly is set to begin on November 21 and the BSP government is likely to introduce a resolution seeking division of the state into three or four separate states.

The demand to split the state into smaller ones is not a hot political issue in UP. It has not given rise to an emotive grassroots movement, as in the case of the agitations for Telangana or Gorkhaland. It is not even as articulate or pronounced as the demand for creation of a state in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. But Mayawati hopes to gain from pushing the idea because it is acceptable to most people and she can take the credit for taking the first steps in that direction.

The sprawling state is India’s most populous and there is a case for dividing it. The demand for creation of Uttarakhand was strident and it was conceded without much fuss in 2000. There are distinctive sub-regional identities in the state, shaped by history, economics and other factors but they have not seriously demanded political identities in the form of separate states, except in the case of Uttarakhand and Bundelkhand, which may be carved as a new state if Mayawati’s plan goes through.

It is to be noted that unlike in many other states where the division was strongly opposed by some sections, there is a general acceptance of the idea all over UP.  Most political parties accept it, except Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party,  and their worry is that Mayawati will solely benefit from the division plan.

The case for splitting the state is strong because it is big and unwieldy and cannot be easily administered. Poor administration is one main reason for the slow development of the state, judged by economic and social indicators. But the present move is driven more by political and electoral considerations than administrative demands.

Whatever the motive, a division can turn out to be a positive for all the states that might emerge. It will also help to reduce the undue political importance that UP gets at the national level because of its size and number of members of parliament.

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