Mayawati crosses first hurdle, what next?

Agra : With the Uttar Pradesh assembly passing a resolution amid bedlam, Chief Minister and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati has crossed the first hurdle on the path to splitting the country’s most populous state into four smaller states.

Political parties opposed to the move have been stumped by the sudden turn of events. Looking at the encouraging response to the legislative decision, the coming assembly elections are sure to focus on the issue of Uttar Pradesh’s division, say political pundits.

Meetings and conferences have been held here supporting her action and to demand that Agra be made the capital of the new proposed state of Western Uttar Pradesh (Pashchim Pradesh). Mayawati has put both Ajit Singh and the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) on the backfoot.

These two parties have in the past supported the demand for a division of Uttar Pradesh but are now opposing Mayawati along with the Samajwadi Party and the Congress.

BSP leaders at the local level see political opportunities and a broad-basing of the party organisation because of the decision to break up Uttar Pradesh into Awadh Pradesh, Pashchim Pradesh, Bundelkhand and Purvanchal.

“From just one now, the BSP can rule four states in future,” said BSP activist Pushkar Arvind.

It was B.R. Ambedkar who in 1954 advocated splitting bigger states into smaller units. The theme was taken up by socialists like Ram Manohar Lohia and Acharya Kriplani.

But Jawahar Lal Nehru, independent India’s first prime minister, supported the recommendation of reorganizing states on a linguistic basis.

Choudhary Charan Singh, who was also India’s prime minister for a short while, also favoured smaller states. Later, his son and Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh launched a movement for Harit Pradesh, comprising 22 districts of Western Uttar Pradesh.

K.M. Pannikar, who headed the states reorganisation commission, had favoured a state of Western Uttar Pradesh. For years, socialist leader Hukum Singh Parihar had campaigned for a Braj Pradesh, with Agra as its capital.

In the 1975-77 Emergency period, the late Sanjay Gandhi almost succeeded in carving out a new state of Western UP with Agra as its capital. The new state was to include parts of Haryana too.

The issue came into sharper focus when Agra lawyers in the early 1980s launched a movement seeking a bench of the Allahabad High Court at Agra, home to the Taj Mahal, India’s best tourist draw.

The central government set-up Jaswant Singh Commission supported the idea.

Most political parties have at one point or the other supported the restructuring of the federal polity on a more scientific line, taking into account the area and population, says political analyst Rajeev Saxena.

“Size does make a difference. For political reasons, the Congress has been averse to splitting bigger states into smaller ones and pointlessly dragging feet on such demands as is happening in Andhara Pradesh.” Saxena said.

Added social scientist Paras Nath Choudhary, formerly of the South Asia Institute of Heidelberg University: “The time has come to carry out a comprehensive exercise to redraw the political map of India.”

People in the Taj city are excited and look forward to a whole lot of new opportunities if a separate state of Western Uttar Pradesh takes shape.

“With the unwieldy size of Uttar Pradesh, the Agra region has always got a raw deal, with funds and tax revenues siphoned off to eastern districts. A new state of Western Uttar Pradesh, whatever its name, will definitely spur growth and inculcate a sense of pride and identity,” said K.C. Jain, chief of a grouping of real estate developers.

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