Wednesday, December 7, 2011

India News: Divide to conquer

Uttar Pradesh: Divide to conquer
Wednesday, December 07, 2011 at 10 : 38
History is replete with stories of kings conquering new territories to expand their kingdom. However, seldom would one have heard of a king vivisecting his vast kingdom into pieces. To that extent, Mayawati's decision to divide India's biggest state into four parts must be a first of its kind. The move has quite rightly taken people by surprise: why would someone in her right senses want to decimate her influence on national politics? After all, Mayawati has all along nursed the ambition of becoming India's first Dalit PM.

Mayawati's move, thus, is a complex one and comprehending it will require a fair amount of conjecture. One would like to believe that Maywati's decision is borne out of a sense of desperation. In 2007, it was her deft social engineering that helped her win over the Brahmins and Dalits alike and which catapulted her to power. She knows that her performance in the last five years hasn't been good enough to retain that envious support base. Her tenure has been marked by rampant corruption, wasteful statue-construction and negligible development.
As such, while Bihar has managed to arrest migration of its people to other states, migration of people from UP has reached unprecedented levels. In this situation if Mayawati had to veer peoples' attention away from her failures, she needed a radical ploy.

The decision to break UP into four different states is supposed to be that radical, desperate ploy which might see Mayawati scrape through these elections on the winning side. Will Mayawati then indeed carve out four new states? Well, the thing about Maywati is that she likes to break conventional norms, just like she did in her self-glorifying statue -making spree. So, in this case, Mayawati's idea seems to be to have her party rule four states instead of just one. She could then project herself as a national leader of a party which rules multiple states and concentrate all her energies in expanding BSP across the country.
Will Mayawati succeed in this wild gamble? Well, even though fortune favors the brave, at times there's a very thin line that separates bravado from harakiri. Of the four new proposed states, BJP has a strong base in Poorvanchal, whereas western UP could go with Ajit Singh's RLD-Congress alliance. Mayawati's ploy, thus, carries the potential danger of falling flat on her.

However, Mayawati's ploy, irrespective of the selfishness that it reeks of, might eventually end up doing some good to Indian politics. Uttar Pradesh, with 80 Lok Sabha constituencies, has always played a crucial role in the government formation at Centre. Ever since our two national parties got weakened in the state, the regional party that ruled UP, assumed a position of importance which enabled it to dictate terms to the Centre. At the same time, the Centre would more often than not make peace with the party ruling the state, knowing the importance of the party's support in Parliament.

Assuming that the BSP will be outsmarted in two of the four new states, Mayawati's move thus carries a faint hope of leading us closer to a bipolar contest at the Centre. At the same time if BSP wins all four states, Mayawati, in all likelihood, will play the king-maker at the Centre.

Whatever Rahul Gandhi might think about the word, "game-changer" now, its a vivisected UP that might be the biggest game-changer in 2014.

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