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Uttar Pradesh split wide open

delhi Updated: Dec 13, 2009 00:30 IST
Vikas Pathak
Vikas Pathak
Hindustan Times
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Amid the demand for statehood for Telangana in Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati’s proposal for her state’s trifurcation has brought into focus the state’s demographics.

The proposal, aiming to split India’s most populated state with 166 million people into three parts, marks a meeting of minds — and perhaps interests — between the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Congress, now potential rivals for power in the state.

Both the parties have supported the idea of splitting the state in the past.

In the Lok Sabha elections of 2009, the Samajwadi Party (SP) got 23 seats, the Congress 21, and the BSP 20.

If the state gets split, the components will be western UP (Harit Pradesh), Bundelkhand (south-central UP) and the rest of UP (central and eastern).

There is a chance for the third also getting divided. Sociologist Dipankar Gupta said: “While smaller states are always a good idea, in the case of UP, where castes and communities play a crucial part, these may see a spurt in caste politics in the short term.”

Allahabad-based political commentator Badri Narayan feels trifurcation will benefit the BSP: “Mayawati’s core Dalit vote is evenly divided across all the regions of UP.”

The figures support his position: While the Dalit population in undivided UP is 21 per cent, that in central UP is 26.1 per cent, in Bundelkhand 25.14 per cent, in Poorvanchal (eastern districts) 21.15 per cent, and in western UP 18.17 per cent (the figures are from the state planning department).

These are all higher than the national average of 16.2 per cent and three of these are higher than that in undivided UP. A split of the state could give the BSP power in more than one state, thus buttressing its claim to “national” status in people’s minds.

But there is another aspect to consider. A senior BSP activist told HT on condition of anonymity: “Having more than one BSP chief minister may create protocol problems. Is behenji (Mayawati) willing to share equal status with someone else in the party?”

“At least in Bundelkhand and eastern UP, Mayawati can do quite well,” said political scientist Sudha Pai, who teaches at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

“But Mulayam Singh Yadav’s SP may suffer heavily.” Demographics support her claim: Undivided UP’s 8.7 per cent Yadav population — the SP’s core base — is not evenly spread across the state. They are found in good numbers in the eastern districts and in a narrow west-central stretch around Etah, Mainpuri, and Etawah.

This means the SP’s core Yadav vote is scattered. The other component of the SP’s support base, UP’s 18 per cent Muslims, who are already deserting Mulayam Singh Yadav, may be further alienated because of the party’s depleting strength.

“While Mayawati will be an obvious gainer, given the uniform Dalit spread in the state and potential sympathy from non-Dalits supporting the division of UP, the Congress too is likely to benefit,” Badri Narayan told HT.

Narayan says Jat-dominated western UP is tougher for the Congress but suggests a way out. “Western UP has a large chunk of Muslims. If Rahul Gandhi makes a young Muslim in charge of what may be called Harit Pradesh, he can weave a coalition around Muslims, with Brahmins too joining along with a sprinkling of Dalits.”

But Dipankar Gupta says the 7-8 per cent Jat population in western UP will make the Rashtriya Lok Dal strong in that region.

The Bharatiya Janata Party still seems down. It will now need its estranged Lodh (a backward caste) leaders — Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharti — to make any impact in western UP and Bundelkhand.