A controversial post made the rounds on social media recently. The post insinuated that the Centre was considering dividing Uttar Pradesh into three smaller entities – Uttar Pradesh, Purvanchal, and Bundelkhand. The state government refuted the message and dispelled any notion of the state being broken up. Although the post has been unveiled to be fake, it has reopened the debate on whether India’s most populous state should be divided.
Previous governments have tried unsuccessfully to get the motion approved. Back in 2011, the BSP government led by Mayawati passed a resolution to split Uttar Pradesh into four smaller states – Purvanchal, Bundelkhand, Awadh Pradesh, and Paschim Pradesh. Even though nothing came of it in the end, it poses a serious question that needs answering. Is Uttar Pradesh better off divided?
The division of any state into smaller units is no laughing matter. It requires serious political will and a deep pocket to foot the bill. If Uttar Pradesh is to be divided, the central purpose should always be centered around better governance and achieving greater accountability from the people in power. Given its size, one can hardly expect a single government and one chief minister to exercise effective control from Lucknow. To put it into perspective, that means 200 million people spread out over 75 districts, each competing for a larger share of the resources.
Split Uttar Pradesh: Political Deadlock
Smaller states will effectively enhance governance and foster greater connectivity between the rulers and the ruled. A downside to this approach lies in the distinct regional divide UP exhibits. While the western-most parts of the state are well-off and flourishing, the rest of the state languishes in abject poverty and backwardness. Thus, breaking up the state into smaller regions might just exacerbate the problem. Being part of a bigger state allows the other regions to have a taste of what the richer west is bringing in. This allows Lucknow to divert resources and revenues to the poorer east and other areas. A division would place the poorer regions at the mercy of the Centre as they would require a special package.
Another point that must be factored in is the expenses that must be met if a division took place. Creating new states entails a long drawn-out process that requires the establishment of new administrative and executive offices. The procedure is not only time-consuming but also eats into the treasury. Western UP can definitely handle the process but the other parts would require considerable support from the Centre to get their houses in order. “Split Uttar Pradesh” hasn’t been a favorite topic for the political arena lately.
Political will is another crucial factor that needs to be considered. Uttar Pradesh has always had a significant hand in deciding who sits in New Delhi. Carving up the state into smaller territories might seriously handicap the aspirations of parties who are aiming for the high seat at the center. Splitting up the state is akin to shooting one’s self in the foot; something political parties wish to avoid. Without political will and involvement, the division of the state will remain a pipe dream.
It is impossible to predict if the division of India’s political pivot will be a good or a bad thing. The heterogeneity and the horizontal divider between groups compounded by sharp communal lines drawn between class and caste make for a nightmarish landscape. The debate over its division may go on ceaselessly but we must not forget that we are not in the firing line. Maybe, it would be best to leave matters in the hands of the millions who will have to live with the reality of either outcome.