BANDA : One issue that has not received any attention in this Uttar Pradesh election is the proposal to divide UP into four new states: Bundelkhand, Purvanchal, Awadh Pradesh and Paschim Pradesh. In fact, in 2011, at the fag-end of her chief ministership, Mayawati got a resolution passed through the Assembly in favour of four smaller states.
The separate state issue has much traction in all the four regions, especially in Bundelkhand, a distinct region that lies off the Ganga plains and straddles Madhya Pradesh (six districts) and UP (seven). Drought and water scarcity have reigned here from 2002 to 2010 and again since 2014. In many districts, groundwater has plummeted from 60 feet to 120 feet with canals and wells having dried up.
Several hundred farmers have committed suicide in the latest recurrence of the drought as a result of sequential crop failures. Due to this, a large scale exodus started from this region. An estimated 3.2 million people have migrated from Bundelkhand in the last few years.
While other issues have drowned the separate state issue, street talk in Bundelkhand shows that it is very much on the voters’ radar. On a day when lakhs of Bundelkhandis exercised their franchise in the fourth phase of the UP polls, it was not the promise of jobs but of a separate state that made voters turn up.
‘’This will be our last vote in Uttar Pradesh. If Bundelkhand is not formed this time, no politician will be able to come here in the next Assembly election. This time, it is perform or perish,’’ said a local village head, Bharat Singh of Sitapur. Interestingly, in their election campaigns, both Union Minister Uma Bharti, who represents Jhansi Lok Sabha constituency and BSP supremo Mayawati have raked up the issue of a separate Bundelkhand.
The BJP and the BSP are likely to gain the “separate Bundelkhand” vote, mainly because BJP leaders like Uma Bharti and the BSP chief Mayawati have expressed support to the issue. Prime Minister Narendra Modi held public meetings in Bundelkhand and left no stone unturned to woo voters of this region. The Samajwadi Party has never come out in support of a separate Bundelkhand though each time it promises to ‘’do everything’’ for the region.
B L Tiwari, a leader of Bundelkhand Mukti Morcha says time is running out for Bundelkhand. “If this region is not granted statehood, it will turn into a wasteland. Already migration, farmer suicides, water scarcity, bad roads and lack of power have made lives extremely difficult. Only a separate state can help,” he says.