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 initiating. 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, which centres on the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, has placed the government in a quandary for months - it has not been able to take a stand on whether to divide the state.
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.
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. Bundelkhand has seven districts; Paschim Pradesh would include Meerut and Ghaziabad. (Watch: What Mayawati's move means)
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.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader's big announcement strategically came a day after the launch of the Congress' election campaign by Rahul Gandhi in Phulpur yesterday. On the way to her announcement, she picked up the gauntlet thrown by the Congress leader when he made a frontal attack on her government for the lack of growth and development in UP. Mayawati lobbed the ball back neatly saying, "Opposition parties, including the Congress, BJP and Samjawadi Party's wrong policies have hindered growth in Uttar Pradesh...they have done nothing for growth during their rule in the state."