New Delhi: As Uttar Pradesh gears up to choose its next government, Chief Minister Mayawati has made a big, strategic announcement. Her cabinet, she said, has agreed in the interest of providing better administration to split UP into four smaller states - Purvanchal, Bundelkhand, Awadh Pradesh and Paschim Pradesh.
It's a populist move, some argue, and one that puts other parties - like the Congress - in a tough position. The Congress will find it tough to disagree with the proposal - one that Mayawati can take the credit for pushing. And yet, at the Centre, where the Congress leads the UPA coalition, there is the need to weigh how this could affect demands of state-hood from other regions. The massive movement for Telangana, for example, which centres on the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, has provided the union government with one of its toughest conundrums.
So Mayawati's government will move a resolution later this month when the next session of the UP Assembly begins, asking for the carving up of the state. Mayawati has the numbers in Assembly to push it through too. But only the Centre can take a final decision on such a re-organisation through a long constitutional process. "We thought that the Centre would help us in carving out new districts in UP, but no help has come from there," Mayawati said.
Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party says his party will fight the move first in the state assembly and then if needed in parliament. "Small, unviable states will lead to Naxal activity and expose the nation's sensitive borders," he said today.
Mayawati's argument is that the lack of development in Uttar Pradesh - usually the biggest complaint against her- is based on the state's unwieldy size of 75 districts. So her blueprint assigns 22 eastern districts like Gorakhpur to Purvanchal.
According to Mayawati's blueprint, Purvanchal will have 22 eastern districts of the state including Gorakhpur. Lucknow, the capital, would be a part of Awadh Pradesh which will have 14 districts. Bundelkhand, whose cause has been championed by Rahul Gandhi, resulting in funding worth thousands of crores from the centre, has seven districts; Paschim Pradesh will get 22 districts and would include Meerut and Ghaziabad. (Watch: What Mayawati's move means)
With this new map for UP, Mayawati hopes to eat into any gains that Mr Gandhi may have made through his focus on Bundelkhand. In the West, Ajit Singh and his RLD have earned good will by campaigning for a separate state and some sort of alliance with Mr Gandhi is likely. Mayawati's announcement today could help check Mr Singh's popularity in this part of the state. And in Eastern UP, where she won the most seats in the 2007 elections, her plan may help consolidate her lead.
In an early reaction, Congress spokesman Rashid Alvi dismissed the UP government proposal as an election gimmick and said his party thought not of the interest of one state but that of the entire country. Later too, the party refused to be drawn into debate just yet. "The Congress does not take decisions with elections in mind. This is a sensitive subject which needs a lot of thought," spokesman Janardhan Dwivedi said.