In a move that could transfigure the structure of Indian electoral politics, just months ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, the Cabinet, presided over by Chief Minister Mayawati, on Tuesday approved the division of the State?into Purvanchal (eastern region), Bundelkhand, Avadh Pradesh (central region) and? Paschim Pradesh (western region).
Though the government has not announced how the State will be divided, it is likely that the 75 districts will be split with Bundelkhand getting seven districts, Avadh Pradesh 23, Purvanchal 28 and Paschim Pradesh the remaining 17. If this were to happen, U.P. would lose its political pre-eminence and its four parts would be behind Maharashtra with 48 MPs in the Lok Sabha, followed by West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh with 42 each, Bihar with 40 and Tamil Nadu with 39.
Ms. Mayawati announced that a resolution would be tabled in the winter session of the Assembly, beginning November 21, and it would be forwarded to the Centre. “Since the creation of new States under Article 3 of the Constitution can be done only with the Central government's approval, a positive response to the Bahujan Samaj Party government's proposal is expected from the Centre,” she told journalists after the Cabinet meeting. The decision had been taken “on popular demand.”
“Small States and administrative units facilitated better and integrated development.” U.P., as she stressed, accounted for 16 per cent of the country's population — 19.95 crore, according to the 2011 Census — and was spread over 2.41 lakh square kilometres.
Interestingly, her decision to move a House resolution on the creation of four small States comes four years after she first proposed such a division at a public meeting on October 9, 2007. Of course, earlier, she had spoken only of trifurcating the State into Purvanchal, Paschim Pradesh and Bundelkhand.
Ms. Mayawati used Tuesday's announcement to slam the Opposition parties, stressing that their wrong policies had blocked the balanced and vigorous development of the State. And even though the maximum number of Prime Ministers had come from Uttar Pradesh, they “also failed to take constructive steps towards developing the backward areas.” She herself had sought a special incentive package of Rs. 80,000 crore from the Centre, but the request fell on deaf ears. More recently, she wrote two letters to the Prime Minister, suggesting a division of U.P.
A surprised Opposition described the move to divide the State as a political stunt. It indicated that she had accepted defeat ahead of the Assembly elections, Pradesh Congress Committee chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi and Congress Legislature Party leader Pramod Tiwari told journalists.
Maintaining that they were not opposed to the creation of smaller States, the two leaders said it would be more appropriate to pursue the exercise through a second States Reorganisation Commission. Purvanchal and Bundelkhand could create problems, Mr. Tiwari said, as some parts of these proposed States lay in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. In 2007, he said, Congress MLAs Vivek Singh and Pradeep Jain (now Union Minister of State for Rural Development) had proposed a Bundelkhand State just as the Rashtriya Lok Dal moved a proposal for Harit Pradesh (western U.P.), but the Mayawati government opposed the move.
The Samajwadi Party's Akhilesh Yadav said in Kushinagar that the BSP's proposal would not hasten development — indeed, SP chief and former Chief Minister Mulayam Singh had always opposed the move to divide U.P.