Bhopal: Parties give Bundelkhand a miss again

Now that Congress and BJP have released their manifestoes, it is clear that statehood for Bundelkhand region will be not be an issue in this election too. For more than two decades, demand is being raised to carve out a separate Bundelkhand state but with major political parties not interested in backing the demand, it could never become an election issue.

Bundelkhand covers an area of around 70,000 sq km and has a population of more than two crore. It includes seven districts of Uttar Pradesh and six of Madhya Pradesh. In MP, the districts that form part of Bundelkhand are Tikamgarh, Chhatarpur, Damoh, Panna, Sagar and Datia. Banda, Chitrakoot, Mahoba, Hamirpur, Jalaun, Jhansi and Lalitpur districts are a part of Bundelkhand in Uttar Pradesh.

The Bundelkhand region, which is drought-hit, covers four Lok Sabha and 29 Vidhan Sabha constituencies each in both the states. Prominent political parties do talk about the need for carving out a separate Bundelkhand state but they never include it in their manifestoes.

The Budelkhand region is rich in natural resources but lacks industrialisation. There is not single big industrial unit, which forced people to bank only on farming for their livelihood. Paucity of rain and consequent drought for years at end has translated into a large number of farmers of region committing suicide. The UP government earns revenue of around Rs 1,000 crore from the natural wealth in seven districts that are part of state but contribute little for development.

The statehood to Bundelkhand was one of recommendations made to first state reorganisation commission constituted in 1955. But it was rejected. This was when Tripura with a population of just 37 lakh and only four districts is a separate state.
According to Tara Patkar, who has been actively supporting the demand for a Budelkhand state, during last Lok Sabha elections, Uma Bharati had promised that she would lobby for statehood for Bundelkhand. She won the polls and her party formed the government at the Centre. But she did nothing to fulfil her promise.

In 2012, a powerful campaign demanding Bundelkhand state was launched under leadership of Raja Bundela. A film artist, Bundela, who founded a Bundelkhand Congress Party lost polls under its banner. He is in BJP now and is mum about the demand. At the fag end of her term as Uttar Pradesh chief minister, Mayawati got a resolution seeking division of UP into four small states cleared by the assembly. It was forwarded to Centre but to no avail. Now, they say BSP is contesting election in coalition with Samajwadi Party. And SP has always been against small states.

BJP leaders from Madhya Pradesh do not wish to comment on the issue. They just say that former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was in favour of small states and that was why, during his regime, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand came into existence. The UPA government also did nothing to fulfil demand, though it did sanction a special package for Bundelkhand. However, rampant corruption in its implementation rendered the package useless.

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