With Union Cabinet last Thursday endorsing the decision to create Telangana state, statehood demands across the country are all set to gather fresh momentum. The Darjeeling hills in West Bengal went for an indefinite Bandh called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) to demand a separate state of Gorkhaland, soon after the Congress Working Committee decided to go for Telangana in July this year.
In northern part of the country, the demand for division of Uttar Pradesh also gained ground and Ajit Singh, chief of Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), which is part of the UPA government, used the opportunity to reiterate its longstanding demand for creating Harit Pradesh out of Uttar Pradesh. Even Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief and former chief minister of UP Mayawati called for dividing the northern state into four states as per a resolution passed by Uttar Pradesh assembly in 2011, when she was in power.
Though there hasn’t been any serious effort made by the UPA government in dividing Uttar Pradesh and also there hasn’t been any groundswell support for the movement, the recent communal riots in Muzaffarnagar which led to the death of about 50 people has now put question mark on the division of Uttar Pradesh, especially creation of Harit Pradesh.
The proposed Western Uttar Pradesh, or Harit Pradesh, will have about 22 districts and will comprise about 22 Lok Sabha seats and 115 Vidhan Sabha seats. The area also has the largest Muslim population in the state with about 24 per cent of Muslims concentrated in the area. Now, in the wake of the riots in Muzaffarnagar, the Jat-Muslim alliance, the bedrock for demand of the separate state, has developed cracks and according to social scientists, indications say the Jat segment, which have been traditionally with RLD, will now move towards BJP.
As the electoral permutations and combinations change after the communal riots the question of division of western Uttar Pradesh now hangs in balance, though social scienties Badrinarayan is of the opinion that the cause will not be sidelined.
‘Jats have been demanding separate statehood for long and now even if they move towards BJP, they will not forego their demand for a separate Western Uttar Pradesh,’ said Badrinarayan, who works at GB Pant Institute, Allahabad. He also added that a division of Uttar Pradesh would be beneficial for Muslims also, as their representation is likely to increase in the government if the state is divided. ‘Division of Uttar Pradesh is beneficial to both Jats and Muslims. So, even if their alliance breaks, their demand for a separate state will be unified,’ said Badrinarayan.
The demand of Harit Pradesh was first initiated in 1953, when the Delhi Legislative Assembly passed a resolution recommending to the government of India that boundaries of Delhi state be enlarged by including contiguous districts of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Making their case before the State Recommendation Commission (SRC), they said that these areas have been historically part of Delhi. They were joined in their demand by 97 MLAs from Western Uttar Pradesh, who signed a memorandum to SRC arguing that western and hill districts be separated to form a new state.
However, 70 out of the 97 MLAs later retracted and appealed to the SRC not to disturb the unity and integrity of Uttar Pradesh. While Govind Ballabh Pant, the then chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, managed to quell the mutiny, differing voices emerged within the State Reorganisation Committee, over division of Uttar Pradesh.
However, after the UPA’s definitive moves on the creation of Telengana, the political map of India has once again started to look amorphous. There is, however, a difference in the demand made by leaders of Uttar Pradesh and the agitation we had seen for Telangana. Unlike Telengana or Gorkhaland, in Uttar Pradesh there has been no grassroot support for dividing the state. It is more of a demand made by the political class. ‘There is no movement on the ground for dividing Uttar Pradesh into four different parts. It is more of a political move made by Mayawati to outsmart her opponents,’ said Sudha Pai, professor, Centre for Political Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).
WHY MAYAWATI WANTS IT
Just few months before the 2012 assembly elections of Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati, then UP CM, foxed her opponents by announcing her cabinet’s decision to propose for division of the state into four smaller states. The BSP chief proposed Poorvanchal (East UP), Paschhimanchal (West UP), Bundelkhand and Awadh (Central UP). The BSP chief cited regional disparity as the core reason for this move and was of the view that smaller states could be managed in a better way.
‘The Centre must now take up reorganisation of Uttar Pradesh and divide it into four different states so that people in Uttar Pradesh could get a better life,’ said Mayawati recently. Her views were resonated by Congress leader and Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh, who recently said that the current structure of Uttar Pradesh was ungovernable from the administrative point of view. ‘If a debate on reorganisation of states is to be held, priority should be given to reorganisation of Uttar Pradesh, because from an administrative point of view, a state with 72 districts is just not governable,’ said Ramesh.
Though administrative issues could be one of the reasons for splitting Uttar Pradesh, what also need to be reckoned are the electoral gains that BSP will achieve by this move. ‘The Dalit base of BSP is evenly spread across Uttar Pradesh and areas like Bundelkhand and eastern Uttar Pradesh are known strong holds of BSP, so the probability of BSP forming its own government in two out of the four states is quite high,’ said Pai.
In fact, in 1991 and 1993 assembly elections, the vote share of BSP in Bundelkhand was 20.3 percent and 26.1 percent and in eastern Uttar Pradesh the vote share was 13.5 percent and 21.9 percent. However, in other parts of the state, the vote share of BSP was below 10 percent in these two elections. The vote share of BSP across the state has increased significantly since 1996 assembly elections and in the 2012 assembly elections, the vote share of BSP in Western Uttar Pradesh (vote share in 1991 was 3.5 percent) was 29.2 percent and the party had even managed to pip its arch rival Samajwadi Party (SP) in the number of seats in this area. Even in the 2009 general elections, BSP won 20 seats out of 80 total seats from Uttar Pradesh, but it was the first runner up in about 48 seats, thus indicating it’s large and evenly spread presence across the state.
UP HAS A HISTORY
In his dissenting note before the State Reorganisation Committee, Sardar KM Pannikkar argued for bifurcation of Uttar Pradesh. Panikkar pointed out that Uttar Pradesh at that time accounted for one-sixth of India’s population, which was equal to the combined population of Andhra, Telangana, Karnataka and Kerala or larger than the population of Punjab, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh taken together. He was also of the view that Uttar Pradesh will create an imbalance to the Indian federal system as it sends 85 members to Lok Sabha and 34 to Rajya Sabha, thus playing a dominant role, which could eventually lead to a feeling of distrust and resentment in other states. Panikkar proposed a new state of Agra which will include districts of Meerut, Agra, Jhansi and four districts from Madhya Pradesh.
The Commission, while dismissing the idea of dividing Uttar Pradesh in its report, stated, ‘There are, in fact, no clear or necessary connections between the size of a State and the quality of its administration’. The report further said ,‘The present commanding position of UP with its representation in both houses of Parliament broadly reflecting its numerical strength violates this important principle that a fair balance between constituent units is an essential condition for the working of a federal system.’ The Commission concluded that none of the arguments in were powerful enough to justify the ‘dislocation and disturbance’ that would inevitably arise if UP were divided.
OLD SCHOOL OPPOSITION
Since the time the issue of division of Uttar Pradesh has been broached by Mayawati, Samajwadi Party (SP) has principally opposed the move. ‘Division of states leads to weakening of the federal structure of the country. Moreover, problems are compounded when there is a division of state.
Also a bigger state is much more powerful and has a major say at the Centre,’ said Rajendra Chaudhary, spokesperson, Samajwadi Party. Though SP is vehemently opposing division of state, in 1996, sections within the party discussed setting up a State Reorganisation Commission (SRC) to address regional concerns which also included Uttar Pradesh.
Former SP leader Shahid Siddiqui is of the opinion that party’s reluctance for dividing the state stems from its old school thoughts. ‘SP does not favour change so easily one must remember that at one point of time they were against the use English language. Also by their reaction it seems that they haven’t given much thought into the issue’ said Siddiqui. The former SP leader also believes that after the division of state, SP will be restricted to central Uttar Pradesh and parts of eastern Uttar Pradesh.
The demand for separate states in Uttar Pradesh has never been a primary issue for any political party. Even Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader Ajit Singh, who has been asking for a Harit Pradesh (Western Uttar Pradesh), never pushed the issue when they formed the government with SP between 2003 and 2007. Also, BJP does not explicitly reject or accept the demand for division, but does say that an SRC should be formed to look into the issues.
THE MUSLIM PSYCHE
The division of Uttar Pradesh though is welcomed by Barelvi leaders, who are of the opinion that the rise of fundamentalist could be nullified if the state is divided, as the minorities will have more bargaining power with the state.
Syed Babar Ashraf, National Secretary All India Ulema and Mashaik Board, while talking about eastern Uttar Pradesh, which has about 17 percent of Muslim population and has high illiteracy rate , points out that in recent times, money from Saudi Arabia has been flushed into the Madarsa’s which are on the Nepal border side. Ashraf says that these Madrasas have now started propagating Wahabism which is a dangerous trend. ‘They slowly remove the patriotic feeling from the youth by telling him that his country has not done anything for him and has failed him in every aspect,’ said Ashraf. He further says that if this trend is not stopped now, then 10 years down the line one would witness dangerous implications of it.
Though the idea of division of Uttar Pradesh is still at a nascent stage, questions do arise if the re-organisation will be economically and administratively successful. ‘There is no thumb rule that dividing a state makes it successful, one can implement policies according to the need of that particular area then the question of dividing the state does not arise,’ said economist Arvind Mohan, Lucknow University.
Moreover, it is still unclear on how the demographics will be drawn, if a decision is taken to divide Uttar Pradesh. ‘The present idea of dividing Uttar Pradesh in four parts is Mayawati’s idea, but Mulayam Singh Yadav could have a different approach when it comes to dividing the state,’ social scientist Shiv Visvanathan.
At the end it may not be the debate on administrative complexities which will decide the division of state but it will be political actors and the vote bank politics which will mould the future of Uttar Pradesh.