Mayawati’s creation of new districts is a political game that serves no productive end, reports Virendra Nath Bhatt
MAYAWATI IS back at her old game: bifurcation of districts. On 28 September, she added three more districts — Hapur, Shamli and Sambhal — to the existing 72. This was done under the archaic Uttar Pradesh Land Revenue Act, 1901.
The idea is to strengthen the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) by giving an impression of meeting people’s aspirations, particularly in areas where political rivals like the Gandhi family, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Kalyan Singh have a strong footing. The larger gameplan is to pave the way for trifurcation of Uttar Pradesh so that her party can rule in all three states.
In the past, Auriyya was carved out of Etawah district, the home turf of SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. Similarly, Kannauj was carved out of Farrukhabad district. The Kannauj Lok Sabha seat is held by none other than Mulayam’s son, Akhilesh Yadav.
Will these tactics work? “Creating three new districts in western UP, considered to be the bastion of Ajit Singh of Rashtriya Lok Dal, will certainly be a blow to the Jat leader,” said a political analyst. BSP had fared badly here in the 2007 Assembly polls, winning only 63 seats and losing close to 150.
However, the creation of districts did not work as planned. One such exercise was undertaken in 2002, after Priyanka Gandhi visited Sangrampur police station of Sultanpur district, falling within the Amethi Parliamentary constituency represented by AICC General Secretary Rahul Gandhi. She went to the police station to get an FIR lodged by Rambhajan, a Dalit whose house was demolished by local toughs.
Mayawati, then heading a BSP-BJP coalition, was outraged over the move and took it as an attempt by the Congress to make inroads into her vote bank.
She decided to hit back, announcing a new district comprising of five Assembly segments falling within the Amethi Lok Sabha seat. Two Assembly segments — Salon and Tiloi in Rae Bareli district — were represented by Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Mayawati named the new district Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Nagar. Gauriganj in Sultanpur district, falling in the Amethi Lok Sabha constituency, was chosen as the district headquarters.
But when the BSP-BJP government fell in August 2003, Mulayam Singh Yadav succeeded Mayawati and soon the government’s notification for the creation of the new district was revoked. Undaunted, Mayawati restored the district in 2010 after becoming CM for the fourth time in 2007.
So far, in her four tenures as CM, Mayawati has created 21 districts. In her first tenure, two were added. During her second term in 1997, she created 14 new districts. Her third tenure in 2002-03 yielded only one district and during her present tenure she has created four more.
“Mayawati is taking the people for a ride by announcing more and more districts,” says Ambika Chowdhary, senior Samajwadi Party (SP) leader and former revenue minister, who led from the front during Mulayam Singh Yadav’s regime (2003-07) for scrapping the new districts created by Mayawati. “After all, where are the huge funds required for creating the physical infrastructure and huge recurring expenditure in appointing state employees for the new districts?” asks Chowdhary.
In Gauriganj, district HQ of Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Nagar, most officials don’t have proper offices.
•The social welfare officer operates from a hostel for Dalit students.
•The district magistrate (DM) has taken over the office of the tehsil.
•The chief development officer sits in the seed and fertiliser store of the agriculture department.
•The chief medical officer (CMO) has occupied a room in the primary health centre (PHC).
•The Superintendent of Police (SP) operates from a vacant building of the PHC.
•The district police lines occupies a small yard at Amethi of the agricultural produce marketing board.
• The inspector of schools has occupied two classrooms of a girls college, causing inconvenience to the girls and their harassment.
• The Basic Shiksha Adhikari (BSA), looking after primary education, has occupied the building of a junior high school. The civil court is proposed to be opened in this building and the office of the BSA is to be shifted into the adjacent primary school.
Finding a residence is an equally big problem.
• The DM lives in the inspection bungalow of the PWD.
•The SP has occupied a small residential building of the Jal Nigam.
•The ADM and additional SP live in guest house of a cement factory of a prominent company.
•The SDM has found refuge in a room in Navodaya Vidyalaya.
•The CMO lives in a room of the PHC.
•Other officers live in nearby Sultanpur or Rai Bareli towns and shuttle daily to Gauriganj.
•Other departments operate from Sultanpur or Rai Bareli. But since even old districts lack basic offices, who is worried? Certainly not Mayawati.
But it is not that simple, as several SP MLAs had rebelled against the party leadership over the decision to scrap the districts. The Allahabad High Court had also quashed the order and had upheld the creation of new districts.
Raja Bundela, who is also famous for his acting roles in Hindi cinema, heads the Bundelkhand Congress, a fledgling political outfit that is spearheading the movement for the creation of Bundelkhand state in UP and Madhya Pradesh. He is not entirely against the creation of new districts. “Ultimately, it will strengthen the case for the division of UP, leading to the creation of Bundelkhand,” says Bundela. “But the recent announcement does not enthuse us. Mayawati is addressing immediate political concerns — the 2012 Assembly polls. It was she who first raised the issue of trifurcation of UP, then Rahul Gandhi also pitched in but both did nothing to take the issue to its logical conclusion.’’
The UP government claims that the new districts have been created after due diligence and to address the problem encountered in administration of big districts where the population has grown manifold in the past decades.
“The UP government, in February 1989, had constituted a permanent high-powered committee headed by the chairman of the Board of Revenue, to consider the proposals for the creation of new districts and divisions with the aim of making the administration at the field level more efficient and effective,’’ says KK Sinha, principal secretary of the revenue department. The revenue department is in charge of land management, land revenue and administration from district to tehsil (subdivision) level. “The districts have been created with the approval of the committee,” Sinha adds.
But this stretches credibility. Even while heading the coalition government with the BJP in 1997, Mayawati had made Hathras tehsil of Aligarh district a full-fledged district, naming it Mahamaya Nagar after Lord Buddha’s mother. Aligarh is the home district of the then BJP satrap Kalyan Singh who, soon after becoming chief minister in September 1997, scrapped the district.
Even after Kalyan Singh left the BJP, the animosity remains. Kalyan Singh is currently the MP from Etah. In July 2009, Mayawati upgraded the Kasganj tehsil of Etah district to district level and named it Kanshiram Nagar.
The saga continues.