In a State of flux

A trend of splintering of political and social alliances has picked up in Uttar Pradesh The State of Uttar Pradesh is fascinatingly diverse and a story in contrasts. It has a history of both intense political and religious contestation and of syncretic accomplishments. The State did not witness a social reform movement of the kind that emerged in regions of present-day West Bengal, Kerala and Maharashtra or the self-respect and backward classes movement in Tamil Nadu. What U.P. did witness during the colonial past was the blooming of secular-liberal political ideas and movements associated with the nationalist/ freedom struggle and paradoxically the assertions of religious and community identities. The revolt of 1857 against the British began here, triggered by caste/ religious considerations of the sepoys. Politics after the failure of the revolt developed two strains – one was of loyalist politics and the other of dissent and sedition. What became dominant in U.P. in the immediate aftermath of Partition and Independence was a secular inclusive politics as represented by the Indian National Congress. Political weight The State carries weight politically for the largest number of parliamentary (80) and Legislative Assembly (404, including one for a member of the Anglo-Indian community) seats in the country and for having given India eight of its Prime Ministers, beginning from the first, Jawaharlal Nehru. At one point in time it was also referred to as ‘mini-India’ — a characterisation from which one has come a long way — but, there still exists a belief that whichever party gets a majority in the Lok Sabha from U.P. becomes the ruling party or wields considerable influence at the Centre. Does it hold true today? U.P.’s economy has remained largely agrarian except for the growing IT sector in Noida (helped by its vicinity to the national capital). There exists significant internal variation of urbanisation, productivity, incidence of poverty and demography in the four regions that form the State – namely, Pashchim Pradesh (west and northwest U.P.), Awadh Pradesh (central U.P. or districts around Lucknow), Bundelkhand (south U.P.) and Purvanchal (east and southeast U.P.).

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