At the stroke of 12.30 noon of November 21, 2011, Chief Minister Mayawati created history by putting an official seal of authority on the proposal of the division of India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh into four. The resolution was passed hurriedly by voice vote in the winter session of state assembly spelling the division of Uttar Pradesh into four states—Avadh Pradesh, Purvanchal, Bundelkhand and Paschim Pradesh—and will go for a final approval to Parliament. Uttar Pradesh has 75 districts and 200 million population.
Smart planning or electoral masterstroke by Mayawati made the Opposition plans to bring in a no-trust motion against her government a copper. There was disunity among the various Opposition parties and the government overpowered them deftly executing its plans precisely and timely. Mayawati did not give her rivals even the slightest time to step up their protest. As the Opposition, chiefly the BJP and the Samajwadi Party members came to the well of the House and increased their protests, the Speaker adjourned the House sine die and the national anthem was played. Lasting just 15 minutes, with one adjournment after six minutes immediately when the House assembled at 11 am, this proved to be the shortest session of any Uttar Pradesh assembly sessions. Uttar Pradesh has 403 assembly seats and 80 seats in Parliament. Caught on the wrong foot the BJP and the Samajwadi Party met the Governor of Uttar Pradesh BL Joshi and urged him to use his Constitutional powers and to reconvene the House. They urged that Monday’s Assembly proceedings may be termed null and void.
The Opposition also appealed to the Parliament to reject the Bill as it is purely an election stunt and has been done to increase the vote bank of Mayawati, which they allege is at its lowest at the moment because of her anti-people policies.
In the state where assembly elections are due in a few months time much heat was generated by Mayawati’s cabinet decision taken on November 16, just five days ahead of the Assembly winter session on November 21, to divide Uttar Pradesh into four states. Totally stumped by what the Opposition also realised was the masterstroke of Mayawati-headed Bahujan Samaj Party they had no choice but to offer a joint opposition to this move. Though reluctantly they did decide to bring in a joint opposition in the form of a no trust motion against Mayawati when she tabled the proposal in the assembly. But the fizz was missing right from the beginning. The ‘attack’ thus was confined to weak verbal protests by the BJP and SP members when the House assembled on Monday morning at 11 am, leading to an adjournment. When the House re-assembled at 12.20 in just 9 minutes the vote on account, including the division proposal of India’s most populous and politically significant state was passed.
A baffled and shaken Opposition watched helplessly as Mayawati triumphantly walked out of the House with her cabinet ministers after the house was adjourned. She did not even allow her rivals to speak to the media as immediately afterwards she convened a press conference at the Media Centre.
Justifying her stand she simply told the media, “My government has decided to pass the proposal for the division of UP in four parts for better administration, law and order and development in the backward regions. We believe that smaller administrative units can be better managed in terms of law and order as well as administration.”
When questioned on her ‘sudden decision’ on the division Mayawati curtly replied that it was not a ‘sudden’ decision but one which her party had studied and contemplated.
“I brought up the issue way back in 2007 when I took over the Chief Ministership. I had had personally written a letter to the Prime Minister. My government had even demanded a package of Rs 80,000 crore for development of eastern and Bundelkhand but when the Centre did nothing we had to initiate this step ourselves, for the welfare of the government,” Mayawati told the media.
The Chief Minister said that Article 3 of the Constitution of India empowered the Centre to create new states, hence the proposal would be sent to the Centre for its consent. “This proposal, which reflects the aspirations of people of different regions, will put pressure on the UPA government to create new states,” she said. Uttar Pradesh is the most populated state of India with a population of over 19.95 crore as per 2011 census. UP’s population is 16 per cent of the total population of the country while the total area of the state is over 2.40 lakh sq kilometre which is difficult to manage for any government,’’ she added.
To the question on how she could take such a vital important decision without any discussion or debate and without consulting the Opposition Mayawati said that she wanted this discussion but it was the Opposition which did not allow this discussion to take place and instead planned to bring about a no-trust motion against her government. She said that there was no question of a no-trust as her government had a solid base of full support adding up to requisite numbers needed for majority.
“People will reply to these parties for their role during elections,” was Mayawati’s parting shot as she left the Media Centre confident and focussed. The scribes were now free to take calls from her rivals who were desperately trying to catch media attention and apprise the Fourth Estate of their next political move. Heavy rested their hearts and heads as nobody knew better than them how their guns had misfired and plans to corner Mayawati turned out to be a damp squib. But politicians never say die, and while it may not be their day that day but like they say there is always a next time.
By Kulsum Mustafa from Lucknow