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Three minutes for 4 new states
Maya sets poll agenda in House

Lucknow, Nov. 21: Three minutes is what it took Mayawati to set the agenda for the Uttar Pradesh elections today while an outsmarted Opposition was chasing its dream of ousting her with a no-confidence motion.

As Samajwadi Party members threw paper balls at the Assembly Speaker pressing him to accept the motion, the chief minister got a resolution for a four-way division of the state passed by voice vote, the treasury shouting its ayes over the Opposition din.

Political analysts said this was probably the shortest and fastest route to passage a statehood resolution had ever taken, bypassing the tradition of lengthy House debates, not to speak of street agitations.

The resolution will now force all the political parties, many of which have avoided taking a stand on the proposed division, to either oppose or support it during the campaign for next year’s Assembly polls.

Mayawati’s move also creates a new headache for the Congress-led central government, which has been hemming and hawing on Telangana statehood for two years. With the resolution’s passage, the ball is in the Centre’s court.

The chief minister will also be hoping that a statehood buzz would divert attention from the corruption probes her government is facing.

When the Assembly opened at 11am for a truncated, two-day session its last before the polls the Samajwadis and the BJP separately asked the Speaker to allow them to move no-confidence motions. They claimed the government had been reduced to a minority following expulsions and dissidence over denial of tickets to many MLAs.

The Congress and Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) backed the Samajwadi demand. A din sparked by the Speaker’s refusal forced an adjournment. When the House sat again at 12.22, the slogans resumed and paper balls flew, the marshals scrambling to catch them. The government kept its cool.

First, it moved the vote-on-account proposal, which the treasury benches helped pass in a voice vote that the Opposition took little notice of. Then Mayawati rose to speak at 12.27.

“This House resolves that the state of Uttar Pradesh be split into four small states: Poorvanchal, Paschim Pradesh, Bundelkhand and Awadh Pradesh,” she said.

Speaker Sukhdeo Rajbhar immediately took the cue: “Those in favour say ‘yes’ and those not, say ‘no’.”

A loud “yes” rang out from the treasury benches. It was barely 12.30pm when Rajbhar declared the resolution passed and adjourned the House indefinitely, turning the session into a one-day affair.

As the Opposition slammed the resolution’s passage without a debate, it faced criticism from many veteran politicians and analysts. They suggested the Opposition should have focused on the resolution from the outset instead of getting caught up in its own hype over the no-trust motion.

“It was based just on an assumption that the BSP is a minority government despite it having 221 members in a House of 404,” said Ramesh Dixit, who teaches political science at Lucknow University.

“The Opposition had only 168 members (Samajwadi 88, BJP 50, Congress 20 and RLD 10). It should have insisted on a debate on statehood without wasting time on the no-confidence motion and creating chaos.”

All 88 Samajwadi members marched from the Assembly to the Governor’s House to demand he intervene to prolong the session and ensure a statehood debate. Governor B.L. Joshi heard them out but gave no commitment.

The BJP termed the resolution “highly controversial” while the Congress called it a “political gimmick”. Some analysts, though, wondered why none of the Opposition parties had staged any street protests today against the resolution.

Mayawati, who had turned the Assembly’s neighbourhood into a fortress with busloads of riot police, faced the media moments after the resolution’s passage. “We have done our duty. It is the UPA government’s turn to take it up from here,” she said.

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