Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Why demand for division of UP is no longer a poll issue
The demand for division of UP has often been raised by different political parties and interest groups citing reasons related to administrative efficiency and economic development.Updated: Apr 15, 2019 10:16 IST
Has the old demand for the division of Uttar Pradesh, that used to dominate the political discourse in late ‘90s and thereafter, died its natural death as an electoral issue?
Even as caste and religion remain dominant factors in elections in UP, regionalism as a poll issue appears to have failed to appeal to voters.
While all the political parties are out with their manifestoes and voting has also taken place for the first phase of elections, the demand for the division of UP is completely missing.
Even the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), which used to be very vocal for Harit Pradesh, is silent on the issue.
“Regionalism, unlike caste and religion, has not evoked a strong sentiment in UP. The state is more cosmopolitan in its character,” Ajit Kumar Singh, an economist, said.
“The demand for division of Uttar Pradesh into four separate states gradually died because the issue failed to evolve into a public movement of the kind that was witnessed in the case of demand for a separate Uttarakhand,” he added.
Uttar Pradesh, which houses the fifth largest population in the world, is overpopulated, poor and underdeveloped with regional variations and disparities in developmental indicators.
For example, western UP is more affluent than the eastern part of the state which is better off vis-à-vis Bundelkhand.
The demand for division of UP has often been raised by different political parties and interest groups citing reasons related to administrative efficiency and economic development.
Since late ‘90s, there was the resurgence of the demand for creation of separate states comprising different regions -Harit Pradesh (west UP), Purvanchal (east UP), Bundelkhand (southern region) and Madhyanchal (central UP).
Creation of Uttarakhand along with Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh in 2000 gave further impetus to the demand.
The arguments in favour of demands are almost the same in relation to indicators-administrative efficiency, viability of smaller states, and neglect of certain regions by governments.
However, in case of Harit Pradesh, the prosperity of west UP is also presented as a case for a separate state with its advocates arguing that richness of west UP was being exploited to feed the state’s backward regions.
While RLD president Chaudhary Ajit Singh had been a strong advocate of Harit Pradesh and has being giving the issue a place in election manifesto, the demand for the division of UP has been raised by different leaders from time to time.
Raja Bundela has been a torch-bearer of separate state of Bundelkhand. Member of parliament Amar Singh and Rajasthan governor Kalyan Singh rooted for division of the state when they headed their own political outfits.
The issue, however, reached a flashpoint during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections when the then Mayawati government went to the extent of passing a resolution favouring division of UP from the Vidhan Sabha. She sent the resolution to the UPA government at the Centre as a politically expedient move before elections.
The Centre, however, did not take any action on it.
Barring the Samajwadi Party which has always been vehemently against the idea of UP’s division, all other parties have supported the concept of smaller states, tacitly or otherwise, from time to time depending on their political convenience.
The demand for the separate states started getting weaker with time largely because it never came naturally from the public but was always raised by certain politicians or local political outfits to further their own political interests.
RLD leader Anil Dubey said his party favoured the idea of smaller states. “This is true under the given circumstances, we are nor raising the demand for Harit Pradesh but this is an important issue and we will address it when the party is in that position,” he said.
Singh said from the point of administrative efficiency, the demand for division of an unwieldy UP was still valid. “But this can never be and is unlikely to be an emotional issue. The issue is politically not paying and hence the demand is dying down,” he said, adding, “In UP caste and religious sentiments matter more than regional aspirations.”