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Mainstream, VOL L, No 1, December 24, 2011 (Annual 2011)

Mayawati’s Gerrymandering: Fourfold Division of UP

Tuesday 27 December 2011, by A K Biswas


The State of Uttar Pradesh—at the bottom in the club of India’s sick States, BIMARU1—seems to stand at a crossroad. The UP Assembly has adopted a resolution on November 21, 2011 for a fourfold division of the State, which, according to the latest census, boasts of 19,95,81,477 persons. This size makes it the nation’s most populous State. Since the mid-eighties, an acronym BIMARU resembling a Hindi word “Bimar”, meaning sick, has come to signify a group of north and north-western States, that is, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. This underscores the deplorable state of the economy of these backward States. Later Odisha has been incor-porated in the club. Several studies, including those by the UN, showed that the performance of the BIMARU States affected the GDP growth rate of India. Some of these States comprise the core areas of the Red Corridor, marked by turmoil on account of extremism.

The province of Uttar Pradesh furnished a galaxy of outstanding personalities with noblest qualities of head and heart to guide the destinies of the nation since Indian independence. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Charan Singh, Rajiv Gandhi, Vishwanath Pratap Singh, Chandra Shekhar, and Atal Behari Vajpayee, who became the Prime Ministers of India, were far above the narrow and sectarian confines of politics. All of them hailed from or represented this State in Parliament. In addition, the benighted State was under the stewardship of towering public leaders (see Table-1) as the Chief Ministers.

The long rule under the Indian National Congress in Uttar Pradesh should have been known as the golden era of Uttar Pradesh. The size of UP, if juxtaposed alongside some countries abroad, helps us understand its magnitude and complexities. In 2011 the total population of thirteen western European nations, for example, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Italy, Greece, Finland, Denmark and Belgium, was estimated at 19,58,15,742. Together these countries were by 37,65,735 less than UP. Before this fertile Gangetic belt with prosperous agri-culture and horticulture along with its hardworking people passed into the hands of non-Congress leaders, the populous State had already acquired the infamous and embarrassing sobriquet BIMARU, which ipso facto presupposes a long period of bad governance or maladministration. Those talented and noble leaders, speaking candidly, became the curse for the masses. The rulers under the democratic dispensation did not articulate and meet the aspirations of the common man. Hailing from the upper social strata, they floundered and ultimately failed to address the needs and redress the grievances of the majority. And the State inevitably lapsed into the abyss of darkness before advent of the new age rulers, who, of course, were exposed to the ridicule and stink of heading the BIMARU State. The failure of the Congress rulers to fructify the spirit as also potential of democracy into their administration led to the emergence and uprising of the social underdogs and backwards to capture the political centre-stage.

The sine qua non of democracy is the numbers. The numbers start and end with the masses. If they are deprived and denied the fruits of development, their frustration and determi-nation for change cannot be suppressed or ignored far too long. They aspire to capture and control the levers of power through legitimate means that democracy provides. The story of the rise of the social underclass replacing the traditional aristocratic and natural leadership to prominence lies here.

The Indian social system is evasive of the masses and caters to the socially creamy layers. There-fore, the basic needs and interests of the masses were largely ignored by the pioneers in adminis-tration in post-independent India. The masses did not take long to understand the studied negligence of the rulers in sharing the benefits of development and prosperity. In every para-meter of development, they have been denied access and share. So, they had to assert themselves and did so by removing them from the seat of power and authority. The super-structure created by the social aristocrats has been blasted from below. They did not adopt inclusive strategies. They preached what they did not believe. They practised what they did not preach. Further, they practised what they believed in private—keep the lower order under the feet—was their ultimate motto.

The consequential result has been near total rejection of these political masters in State after State in large parts of India. The rise of leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Laloo Prasad Yadav, Mayawati, etc. was facilitated by misrule, dishonesty and betrayal of the masses.

Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi famously diagnosed long before these new crop of political leaders invaded the power-centres that 16 paise of a rupee reached the people. Powerful elements had positioned themselves at vintage points to loot 84 paise long before they arrived on the scene and there was little left for plunder. Corruption had reached its nadir already. So how come the blame could be laid at their doorsteps for all the ills befalling UP or any part in the country?

Social Revolution Sweeping Uttar Pradesh

RESEARCH on the status and conditions of dalits since a decade in UP, undertaken by a group of Dalit scholars, has revealed some truths that are startling and unknown. They focused on education, employment, social behaviour, consumption pattern, lifestyles and attitude of neighbours towards the Dalits, etc. The accursed bonded labour, the euphemism for ‘slavery’ “has virtually disappeared”. The proportion of bonded labour fell from 32.1 per cent to 1.1 per cent. “The proportion of Dalit households doing any farm labour has plummeted from 76 per cent to 45.6 per cent in the eastern UP while from 46.1 per cent to just 20.5 per cent in the west. The proportion depending on their own land is up from 16.6 per cent to 28.4 per cent in the east, and from 50.5 per cent to 67.6 per cent in the west,” says the report.

“Dalits are leasing land from upper castes,” It adds. “Once labourers on upper caste land, they now insist on their share of the crop. The proportion in sharecropping is up from 16.7 per cent to 31.4 per cent in the east and from 4.9 per cent to 11.4 per cent in the west. In western UP, cases of Dalits alone lifting dead animals are down from 72.6 per cent to 5.3 per cent.” The society holds it as a stigma. Dalits in the past were known to harness bullocks to cultivate the land of the upper castes. Now upper-caste tractor drivers, lo and behold!, are hired by Dalits to plough their land. Economic reforms have opened avenues for Dalit migration to towns, resulting in inflow of cash into their village homes. This has broken down their dependence on rural landlords and money-lenders. The resultant labour shortage in the rural areas has enhanced the bargaining power of Dalits for higher wages. They now demand better working terms and conditions also.

The occupational canvas has witnessed diversification. “The proportion of Dalit families working locally as masons, tailors or drivers—all non-traditional occupations—is up from 14 per cent to 37 per cent in the east and from 9.3 per cent to 42.1 per cent in the west. Even more revolutionary is the rise of Dalit business families, from 4.2 per cent to 11 per cent in the east and from six per cent to 36.7 per cent in the west.” The age-old laws of Manu on hereditary occupation have ceased to operate and taken a back seat.

Morbidity has yielded to modern means of mobility and connectivity in social life. A motorcycle symbolises high rural status. Dalit ownership of two-wheelers improved from almost zero to 7.6 per cent in the eastern UP and 12.3 per cent in the western. Midwives for Dalit confinement in labour is rising. Earlier non-Dalit and government midwives rarely came to Dalit homes for deliveries, but the proportion is now up from 3.4 per cent to 53.4 per cent in the east, and from zero to 3.6 per cent—though still very low—in the west. There are unobtrusive changes touching life worth and meaningful.

The surge for education is visible among Dalits across east and west of UP. The researchers noted that “Dalit households where most or all kids go to school are up from 28.8 per cent to 63.4 per cent in the east and from 21.7 per cent to 65.7 per cent in the west. Girls’ schooling is up from 10 per cent to 58.7 per cent in the east and from 6.8 per cent to 56.9 per cent in the west. As a form of social assertion, Dalits are adopting elite consumption patterns.”

The Dalit proportion with pucca houses rose from 18.1 per cent to 64.4 per cent in the east and from 38.4 per cent to 94.6 per cent in the west. TV ownership improved from virtually zero to 22.2 per cent and 45 per cent respectively. Cellphone ownership increased from almost nothing to 36.3 per cent and 32.5 per cent respectively. Rise in income levels and awareness has brought changes in other aspects of life too. Use of toothpaste, shampoo and bottled hair oil has soared in the Dalit community. Earlier, only one-third of Dalits in the east and virtually none in the west used cars or jeeps for wedding baraats, but today virtually all do. The proportion serving laddoos to baraatis is up from 33.6 per cent in the east and 2.7 per cent in the west, to almost 100 per cent in both cases.

The Dalits themselves admit “the changes began 10-15 years ago, in the reform era. UP has lagged well behind the fast-reforming States. Yet in the five years 2003-04 to 2008-09, its average GDP growth has accelerated to 6.29 per cent. This is well behind the national average, yet not far from the seven per cent generally viewed as the ‘miracle-economy’ threshold. Per capita income is growing almost 10 times faster than in the Nehru-Indira era, and Dalits are sharing the new prosperity.” During this period social wellness has moved faster than economic well-being.

The scholars “see the last two decades as an economic reform era. But this period has also seen the meteoric rise of the Bahujan Samaj Party, which could be an even stronger driver of Dalit economic improvement.”

Gerrymandering for UP

CHIEF MINISTER Mayawati has started gerry-mandering in the backdrop of the forthcoming Assembly Elections 2012. This word, little known in Indian political glossary, needs elaboration. Gerrymandering owes its origin to Elbridge Thomas Gerry (1744-1814) who was an American statesman and diplomat. A Republican and the ninth Governor of Massa-chusetts, he was the fifth US Vice-President and served under President James Madison. This essentially means “a process by which electoral districts are drawn with the aim of aiding the party in power”. Since then this strategy is in vogue in the US. In India delimitation could be remotely comparable to it. The Boston Gazette, March 26, 1812, used the word gerrymander (originally written Gerry-mander) for the first time. The word was created in reaction to a redrawing of the Massachusetts State Senate election districts, looking like salamander, under the then Governor, Elbridge Gerry. In 1812, Governor Gerry signed a Bill that redistricted Massachusetts to benefit his Democratic-Republican Party.

On November 21, 2011 the Uttar Pradesh Assembly has passed a resolution for fourfold division of the State. No player and contender for power thinks division of the huge province is unmerited. They, in fact, have no courage to air contrary views as the electorates will be ultimately benefited by the creation of number of smaller States out of UP. But they accuse the Chief Minister that her timing in moving and passing the proposal for division is opportu-nistic. They allege she wanted to gain political as also electoral advantages out of the strategic move.

It is by now common knowledge that smaller States, carved and created out of Bihar into Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh out of Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand out of UP, have presented better development index. Earlier Haryana and Himachal Pradesh too, carved out of Punjab, have registered better and faster development. Bihar sans Jharkhand has achieved impressive growth. However, the same analogy for the North-Eastern States, carved out of Assam, does not hold good. Smaller sizes of their population failed to create political upheaval at the Centre as UP, Bihar, Maharashtra etc. are capable. So these States suffer a kind of neglect, despite being India’s federating units.

So far as the UP election is concerned, the die is cast and the political players are in a quandary by the bold step on the division of the State.

No Politician Dreams of Division of her/his Empire

THE British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, was unpopular among Indians for his arrogant declaration: “I will not preside over the disme-mberment of the British Empire.” His declaration otherwise would have made him dear to Indians as a sweet song. Mayawati wants division of UP. But she has, thereby, become unpopular to a political class. Some have alleged that her action plan has set the disintegration process in motion. Nobody believes that she is bold and caring for development. This will ultimately benefit the masses.

The epic war of Mahabharata was fought because the ruling Kauravas did not agree to yielding even an inch of land. The Pandava brothers wanted just five villages. Mayawati wants division of UP into four States. She has shown uncommon sagacity and courage. If this has foxed her political rivals and opponents, this is just what politics is all about!

Unfortunately, the limitation of our intel-lectual class, including analysts, commentators and politicians, in common with a vast section of people is that whatever Mayawati says and does as the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister it is invariably viewed through the prism of her social status. From that perspective she is usually castigated, criticised and ridiculed. She has, however, succeeded in turning their opposition and criticism to her advantage deftly.

[This writer is grateful for S. A. Aiyar’s ‘Swaminomics’ in The Times of India, September 26, 2010 “Dalits are marching ahead in Uttar Pradesh” and The Times of India, October 3, 2010 “The social revolution in Uttar
Pradesh”, in support of his argument.—A.K.B.]


1. In the mid-eighties, economic analyst Ashish Bose coined an acronym BIMARU, in a paper submitted to the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi.

List of the Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh (1937-1988)

The author is a former Vice-Chancellor, Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar Univrsity, Muzaffarpur, Bihar. For comments and observations, if any, please contact him at

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