Maya's gambit: Can't swallow an apple? Break it into four

Maya's gambit: Can't swallow an apple? Break it into four

While it may not be a reality at least in the short run, the dalit icon has attempted to draw political and electoral advantage by announcing Poorvanchal (Eastern UP, bordering Bihar), Paschim Pradesh (Western UP), Avadh Pradesh (Central UP) and Bundelkhand (bordering Madhya Pradesh) to be carved out of the mother state.

Not that it was unexpected. Mayawati had talked of it earlier too but she has made her intentions clear with UP Assembly elections just a few months away. The announcement came within 24 hours of Congress scion Rahul Gandhi attacking her on issues of governance. She has almost achieved immediate success by diverting attention from such issues to splitting of UP into four.

As Rahul tries to draw first blood in the run up to the Assembly polls, likely in March-April, Mayawati has well and truly made a headstart to the election campaign.

Going by the reactions, Mayawati has also succeeded in ruffling the Opposition feathers. While only main rival Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh Yadav is opposing the four-way division of UP, the others are not in a position to take on her on the proposal.

She also knows that other parties cannot be vocal against her proposal – Congress has been talking of development of Bundelkhand while Ajit Singh of Rashtriya Lok Dal has been demanding creation of Harit Pradesh (Western UP) for long. Congress is in final stages of electoral tie-up with him. Interestingly, neither Congress nor BJP has opposed the proposal.

Why this decision? UP watchers say Mayawati knows well how difficult it is to garner 202 seats to gain power in the state every time in the 403-member Assembly. The best alternative is to break the state and keep power in some of them. Going by the last Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, Mayawati has strong presence in each of these four regions. In the 30 districts of Paschim Pradesh, her BSP won 85 Assembly seats compared to her nearest rival SP (23 seats) while in the 28-district Poorvanchal, she won 88 seats compared to SP’s 41. The story is not very different in the two smaller regions: in Avadh Pradesh (10 districts), BSP scored 33 seats as against SP’s 20 and in Bundelkhand (seven districts), she managed 14 seats against four of SP.

‘Divide UP’ decision

These figures also give a clear message why she wants four new states while being ready to sacrifice the primacy enjoyed by UP in national politics. Not just that. She has taken the ‘divide UP’ decision despite knowing that it was because of UP and her performance electorally, the Third Front parties had projected her as PM candidate in 2009 LS polls.

Sudha Pai of Centre for Political Studies of Jawaharlal Nehru University and an authority on UP told Deccan Herald: “ The timing of the announcement certainly shows the political intentions Mayawati has. However, its significance cannot be denied. Mayawati hopes to come to power in at least two of the new states. To her advantage, other parties are weak. Congress is perceived to have failed to evoke interest among the people and BJP is not doing well. If she does well in Western UP and Bundelkhand too it will add to her strength.”

The decision to break UP, which sends 80 MPs to Lok Sabha and which has given India majority of her prime ministers, will certainly make the state weak politically. It is bound to lose its political pre-eminence in government formation at the Centre as it cedes that advantage to other larger states such as Maharashtra (48 MPs), followed by West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh (42 each) , Bihar (40) and Tamil Nadu (39).

Right now – if reports from the state are to be believed - UP’s dalit icon may not return with a thumping majority [207/403] that she achieved in 2007 but with the Tuesday announcement, she has sought to neutralise the opponents ahead of poll campaign.

The Congress-led UPA may be caught in a cleft stick if the UP Assembly passes the resolution following which the ball will be tossed to the Centre. The Union government is already caught in a dilemma over Telangana and without taking a clear stand over this issue, it is unlikely that the Centre will initiate action on UP division. To get out of the situation, the Centre may opt for a State Reorganisation Council which may go into the statehood demand  from different regions of the country. Already, Congress has put forth the SRC demand.

The statehood will be a distant dream. First, the Assembly will have to pass the resolution after which it is up to the UPA-ruled Centre. Parliament will have to approve the resolution through a Constitutional amendment.

For the present, however, it is over to the UP poll scene following the poll bugle sounded by Mayawati with her latest cabinet decision.

The next few months to the poll run-up will see the belligerent dalit leader leading the campaign highlighting her four-state demand.