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Thursday, August 02, 2007

U.P. is a monstrosity, an administrative nightmare

Opinion - Leader Page Articles Should we allow U.P. to hijack Indian politics? B.G. Deshmukh The Hindu Thursday, Aug 02, 2007 In a federal nation like ours, no State should have more than 10 per cent of the seats in the popularly elected house of Parliament, i.e. the Lok Sabha. We must, therefore, seriously consider bifurcation of Uttar Pradesh.
The results of the State Assembly Elections in Uttar Pradesh held in May 2007 have created strong undercurrents and waves in Indian politics. This is because, as one weekly said, “who gets to lord over the Vidhan Sabha [of U.P.] will have the bearing on who rules at the Centre.” As a matter of fact, U.P. has been dominating the Indian political scene right from the time we got independence. It had a virtual monopoly of providing Prime Ministers. It sends 80 Lok Sabha members out of about 540. Unless a party or a coalition of parties has a strong representation from U.P., it cannot form a stable government at the Centre.
It is, therefore, almost certain that the election results to the Lok Sabha from U.P. in 2009 would materially affect formation of a government at the Centre. Let us examine their effect on the four major players at the national level — the United Progressive Alliance, the National Democratic Alliance, the Leftist groups, and the Bahujan Samaj Party
In the UPA, the Indian National Congress is the leader. Its present strength in the Lok Sabha is 146 with nine MPs from U.P. Unless its strength crosses the 200 mark, it will have to depend on critical support from other like-minded parties and the Leftists. An optimistic estimate can be that it may take away about 50 seats from the Bharatiya Janata Party in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, and Gujarat. But this gain could be offset by losses in Andhra Pradesh of about 10-15 seats; and having to give about 10 extra seats to the Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra.
Let us thus assume that the strength of the Congress will barely go up to 200 seats. Even then it will have to depend on other parties for critical support. It already has the bitter experience of paying the price for the outside support of the Leftists. The Rashtriya Janata Dal strength of 23 MPs is likely to go down steeply in Bihar. Even the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam strength may be reduced by the challenge of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. Unless, therefore, the Congress strength of nine MPs from U.P. goes up substantially, the UPA’s strength will not be better than what it is now. As a matter of fact, it is very likely to be less stable than at present because the Congress would like to have the BSP as a partner in the UPA.
Taking note of Mayawati’s unabashed ambition and the confidence gained by her thumping victory in the State elections, the BSP will fully leverage its position in the UPA to gain more power for itself. U.P. politics would thus very critically affect the fortunes of the UPA in general and of the Congress in particular. The prospects are rather bleak, as the Congress strength is unlikely to go above 10 in U.P. looking to its performance in the State elections. As a matter of fact, as its likely partner in the UPA, the BSP would be most unwilling to concede to the Congress more seats as Ms. Mayawati would like to build and protect the BSP’s base in U.P. to gain and strengthen its position at the national level.
The U.P. effect will affect the NDA in a much more harsh way. The BJP would find it very difficult to compensate its losses to the Congress in M.P., Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Karnataka by gains from the Congress in other States. It would, therefore, be far more dependent on U.P. to increase its present strength of 10, which, however, seems to be almost impossible looking to the opposition it will have to face from the BSP and the Samajwadi Party. Some of its allies such as the Janata Dal (United) and the Janata Dal (Secular) might improve their position but not very substantially. The recently formed Third Front would also eat into the NDA’s strength. Therefore, unless there are miracle results from the U.P. to give the BJP 40-50 seats, the NDA would be in dire straits.
The Leftists have their strengths concentrated in West Bengal and Kerala. The U.P. results would in no way affect their present strength of abut 60 MPs in the Lok Sabha.
For the BSP, which is now emerging as national force, the U.P. elections would of course be very material. It is reported that Ms. Mayawati has already started identifying about 220 Lok Sabha seats all over India, which if won would give her a commanding position to form a government at the Centre as the Prime Minister. For this, the quota from the U.P. would be very critical. She would certainly try to get more than 60 seats from U.P., which the Congress used to do till the1970s.
That U.P. has hijacked Indian politics will be increasingly clear from 2009, when the next general elections take place. The question is, is it fair to Indian democracy? Is it healthy for Indian democracy that just one State should have the capacity at the expense of other States to materially control our federal democratic structure? U.P. has the most seats in the Lok Sabha, 80; the State that comes next is Maharashtra, way below with 48 seats. Three other States have 40-plus seats. All others have below 30 seats each.
The ‘five Ms’
U.P. is a monstrosity — politically, administratively, socially, economically, and what not. Good governance, social justice, law and order, do not figure in its politics. What dominates it are the ‘five Ms’ — Mandir, Mandal, minorities, money-power, and muscle-power. It is an administrative nightmare to govern this State with about 75 districts; 32 per cent of its population is below the poverty line, whereas the national average is 24 per cent; its infant mortality rate is second from the bottom; in per capita income it is fourth from the bottom. It is rich in various resources but its contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product is far below that of Maharashtra, which is a much smaller State.
The Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid controversy starting in U.P. completely vitiated the communal situation in the country. The OBC problem in the State mandalised the casteist situation in the country to such an extent that we started wondering which is more vicious — casteism or communalism. Most of the political parties started certain practices to woo castes, minorities, OBCs to gain votes in U.P. and these practices spread to other parts of the country, which severely affected the national social and political fabric.
It would be very desirable that in a federal nation like ours, no State should have more than 10 per cent of the seats in the popularly elected house of Parliament, i.e. the Lok Sabha. We must, therefore, seriously consider dividing U.P. into two States. As a matter of fact, if I remember right, the States Re-organisation Commission appointed in the 1950s did suggest bifurcation of U.P., which would have been most appropriate as the name of the State in pre-independence days was United Provinces (of Agra and Awadh). These two new smaller States would be in a far better position to be administered well and to accelerate economic development. But a far better advantage would be that there would remain no State that would have more than 10 per cent of the seats in the Lok Sabha and thus have domineering influence in the formation and working of the Central government. (The writer is a former Cabinet Secretary, Government of India.)

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