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Why Uttarakhand BJP leaders want parts of Western UP included in their state

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 22 February 2018, 17:23 IST

Politics in the hill state of Uttarakhand is on the boil over Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders including the Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat expressing their preference for including some areas of western Uttar Pradesh into Uttarakhand. This has stirred a hornet's nest with social activists and the Opposition not only questioning the larger designs of the RSS and the BJP but accusing them of playing with the sentiments of the hill population who had got their statehood after a bloody and prolonged struggle. The BJP leadership has been claiming that the party leaders have been quoted out of context.

It was just a couple of days back that Trivendra during his visit to Balaji Dham in Saharanpur district had reportedly said that he was previously also in favour of Saharanpur being a part of Uttarakhand. Prior to this, the Congress turned BJP leader Harak Singh Rawat had also reportedly expressed his desire that some villages of Bijnor be amalgamated into the hill state.

One needs to go back a bit into the political history of the region to understand how these remarks cannot be treated as just off the cuff statements. Sources inform that prior to the formation of the state in late nineties, delegations comprising mainly of Hindu traders had approached a committee comprising BJP leaders Kalraj Mishra and present home minister Rajnath Singh requesting them that Saharanpur be made a part of Uttarakhand. They contested that a single industrial unit in the district alone contributed excise revenue that was equivalent to the entire budget of the hill districts at that time.

Sources say that their requests and views were dumped because the RSS and its affiliates were keen on carving out an upper caste Hindu dominated state that would have eight districts of the hills and 'Kumbh area' of the plains. The things got settled when Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar got added to the eight hill districts and the state was born.

Coming back to the present times, sources say that for about a year now there have been rumours doing the rounds in the districts of Bijnor and Saharanpur that they would soon be parts of Uttarakhand. These rumours stem from the speculations that the the BJP and the RSS are rattled by the emerging patterns of Dalit-Muslim unity that have the potential to derail the larger design of the RSS.

“It is only in extraordinary circumstances that the BJP manages to win in these areas. This is an unwarranted issue raised by the BJP at this point of time as there is neither a demand from the people of Uttarakhand or those from Uttar Pradesh for the merger of these districts into the state. Had this been the case, there would have been a Harit Pradesh in existence with more districts like Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Moradabad, Rampur and Bareilly in it,” says senior Congress leader Suryakant Dhasmana.

“These statements amount to playing with the sentiments of the hill people who wanted a state that could cater to special needs stemming from the hill topography and environment. This is an anti people move,” he added.

In context of Harak Singh Rawat talking about including parts of Bijnor district, observers say that he has been repeatedly saying this keeping in mind some 60 to 70 villages that are dominated by people from hill communities. They say that this would increase his area of political influence.

In the past there have been repeated agitations by people residing in villages of Uttar Pradesh bordering

Uttarakhand calling for their inclusion in the hill state is because of the fact that their neighbours have access to comparatively better facilities in terms of power supply and some other benefits. But now it is the BJP politicians who are talking in terms of including areas of Uttar Pradesh into the hill state.

The statements from Trivendra and Harak have come in for scathing criticism from the opposition that has found an emotive issue to play up.

The Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD) that is seen as force that speaks in the interest of the hill people has threatened to launch an agitation against any such move. Party spokesperson Sunil Dhyani said that the BJP has always played with the sentiments of the people and the existence of the state. “It had previously named the state as Uttaranchal showing sheer disregard for the sacrifices made by the people who fought for statehood. They have done nothing for establishing a permanent capital of the state and have even surrendered when it came to distribution of assets with Uttar Pradesh.” He said that the UKD will never accept any move to merge parts of Uttar Pradesh into the hill state.

CPI(ML) leader Indresh Maikhuri in a post on Facebook has posed a question to Trivendra saying, “Only time will tell whether Saharanpur becomes a part of Uttarakhand or not but tell us what you have given to the state in the last 17 years that you want to give to Saharanpur? Had there been any other party in power in Uttar Pradesh you would have said that since there is no development in Saharanpur, it should be merged with merged with Uttarakhand so that it is developed. Through your comments you have placed the BJP in a corner.”

"The demand for Uttarakhand was one for a hill state so that policies could be framed and implemented keeping in mind the special socio cultural environment and tough geographical conditions. The governments that have been elected over the last 17 years have demolished this concept instead of doing anything to realise it. Trivendra's statement is an addition in this direction.”

Despite BJP leaders like the state unit chief Ajay Bhatt issuing statements saying that Trivendra has been quoted out of context, this controversy is unlikely to die down soon.

First published: 22 February 2018, 17:24 IST