Maya moots smaller states
Chief minister Mayawati is likely to soon push for reorganization of Uttar Pradesh, splitting the sprawling state into four parts. The move is being seen by her supporters as a masterstroke ahead of the 2012 assembly polls. Well-placed sources said Mayawati was planning to make the pitch to carve out four new states of Uttar Pradesh, which, with its 75 districts, is larger than many countries. As per the blueprint, the eastern part of the state with 32 districts will form a new state of Poorvanchal; the 22 western districts will be grouped together as Harit Pradesh; Bundelkhand will take seven districts, and the remaining 14 will fall in central UP, the fourth state. Mayawati did not deny the move when questioned by reporters at a press conference to announce the hike in state advisory price for sugarcane. A smiling Mayawati said, “It’s a big issue but I will not talk about it today because if I do, you people will downplay the SAP story, a big pro-farmer step of the state government.” This response strengthened the buzz around the reorganization. Uttar Pradesh CM Mayawati’s proposal to split the state into four parts – Harit Pradesh, Poorvanchal, Bundelkhand and rest of the districts into as-yet-unnamed entity -- has gained momentum because of the upcoming elections. BSP sources hoped it would set the agenda for the coming polls, while diverting attention away from the incumbency. The hope is not without basis because almost all political parties have at various times advocated division of the state into smaller units. The Congress has been championing the creation of Bundelkhand on the ground that its distance from Lucknow has contributed to its backwardness. The party has not taken a stand on Harit Pradesh, but will find it difficult to oppose it because its prospective ally Ajit Singh has made it a battle theme. The BJP, which carved Uttarakhand out of UP, has consistently prided itself for its commitment to smaller states --pointing to the creation of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand in 2000. The party has now taken cudgels for the demand for Telangana. Samajwadi Party is categorical in its opposition to the splintering plan. Its general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav said, “The division will reduce UP’s clout in national politics.” BSP sources feel that SP’s opposition will help Mayawati’s plan to shape the narrative. Under the Constitution, the power to create new states is vested with Parliament. The Constitution explains that the bill for creation of new states can be introduced in either House of Parliament on the recommendation of the President. If the bill affects the area, boundaries or names of any of the states, President would refer the bill to the legislature of the state for expressing its views within a stipulated period. The Congress, which is already caught in the row over separate state of Telangana, is unlikely to reveal its hand. Congress leaders said the party might support Mayawati but a final decision would be taken by the high command. In New Delhi, Congress did not oppose the move outright, merely saying it should be referred to a new State Reorganization Commission: a posture which only indicated its wariness of Mayawati’s electoral intent. Although her timing has been influenced by the looming polls, Mayawati has kept the issue burning since winning the 2007 elections. She publicly supported the division of UP while addressing a rally in Lucknow, and followed that by writing to PM Manmohan Singh in 2008 and, again, in 2009. Most recently, she raised it in September while announcing the creation of three new districts in western UP. Even as bigger players were trying to craft their response, smaller outfits campaigning for statehood for distinct regions in UP were already celebrating the prospect. “We are getting support of the National Federation for New States, which includes outfits fighting for small states across the country,” said Raja Bundela of Bundelkhand Congress. Amar Singh also announced that he would hold a rally on November 13 at Sarnath in Varanasi in support of the creation of Poorvanchal. Their excitement can only serve Mayawati’s objective to distract attention. The BJP has been supporting smaller states but has chosen to downplay Mayawati’s proposal. BJP’s national vice-president Kalraj Mishra said the party had always been in favour of smaller states but the decision to divide UP should be taken after a thorough study by state reorganization commission.