With the 2019 Lok Sabha elections just months away, the issue of division of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state, is back in focus. This time it is the Aam Aadmi Party or AAP, which said on Monday, that it will launch a movement to fulfil the long-standing aspiration of the people.
Uttar Pradesh accounts for the highest number of 80 Lok Sabha seats.
"Uttar Pradesh is a big state, both from the points of view of area and population. Its population is as much as that of any big country. It has become practically very difficult to govern such a vast state," Aam Aadmi Party spokesperson Sanjay Singh told news agency PTI.
"AAP is in favour of smaller states. It supports the division of Uttar Pradesh into four parts, and for this, it will go the extent of even launching a movement. The party will finalise its strategy soon," he said.
On being told that other political parties have opposed division of the state, Mr Singh said that the BJP has been a supporter of formation of smaller states.
"People of Bundelkhand, Poorvanchal and Paschim Kshetra (western UP) have been demanding creation of smaller states for the last many years. This is a matter of public feeling and political parties must think about it seriously," the senior AAP said.
Aam Aadmi Party is of the view that for an effective law and order system and conducive conditions for growth, formation of smaller states is necessary, Mr Singh, a Rajya Sabha member, said.
"In Uttar Pradesh, because of poor law and order and absence of development, schools, roads and hospitals are not being built. Sonbhadra district gives the maximum revenue, but see its condition. See the condition of Poorvanchal. If UP is divided into four states, it will be good," he said.
Speaking at an event in Noida on Saturday, Aam Aadmi Party convenor Arvind Kejriwal too, advocated for the division of the state and said it has lagged in development because of its size.
"Uttar Pradesh should be divided into Awadh, Bundelkhand, Purvanchal and Pashchim Uttar Pradesh -- four states. This is the people's demand. And not only do we support it, we will struggle with the people of the state for the fulfilment of this demand," Mr Kejriwal said.
The demand for splitting Uttar Pradesh into Harit Pradesh (western UP), Poorvanchal (eastern UP), Bundelkhand and Awadh is raked up from time to time, and gains momentum ahead of general elections.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), headed by Mayawati, was once a strong supporter of the demand when the Samajwadi Party was in power, maintaining that smaller states could be governed better.
BR Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution, had also recommended the division of Uttar Pradesh in his book 'Bhashayi Rajya'.
As the chief minister, Mayawati had first raised the issue in 2007 and her government had even adopted a resolution in the state Assembly seeking its division into four parts. Both BJP and the Congress had supported the resolution brought by Mayawati in the 403-member Uttar Pradesh Assembly.
But, as Mayawati lost power in 2012 after winning just 80 seats against 206 seats in 2007, her demand lost steam.
During Atal Bihari Vajpayee's tenure as prime minister, the BJP-led NDA had carved out Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh from UP, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh respectively, giving rise to speculation that it might favour further division of the most populous state.
Besides the Rashtriya Lok Dal, Raja Bundela's Bundelkhand Congress, Kalyan Singh's erstwhile Jan Kranti Party, Amar Singh's now defunct Rashtriya Lok Manch and Ayub Khan's Peace Party too had time to time pitched for the division of the state.
In August this year, the issue suddenly came back in focus when around 250 people got their heads shaved in protest in Mahoba district demanding statehood for Bundelkhand region.
Under the banner of Bundeli Samaj, they demanded carving out of a separate Bundelkhand state from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh on the lines of Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh and Telangana.
Convenor of the Bundeli Samaj, a social organisation, Tara Patkar claimed that the BJP has forgotten its promise of giving a separate Bundelkhand state to the people.
Bundelkhand is a hilly region spread over Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Seven districts in Uttar Pradesh -- Banda, Mahoba, Hamirpur, Lalitpur, Jhansi, Jalaun and Chitrakoot -- and eight districts in Madhya Pradesh fall under this region.