Home to 80 Lok Sabha seats, Uttar Pradesh (UP) was once located at the heart of Indian politics, until it eluded most political parties. Today, fragmented along caste lines, it is a haven for regional entities.
Today, it is back in news for two very different reasons and both have a bearing on the country at large. At one level, the dream to “win” UP has never been away from the imagination of big political parties. If Rahul Gandhi’s motorbike ride, detention and externment back to Delhi were a pointer, Rajnath Singh’s fast and protests by the Bharatiya Janata Party brass didn’t leave much to be said. The first shots for the 2012 election campaign have pretty much been fired. The farmers are just a fig leaf.
At another level, the state is the new flashpoint for a particularly vexing problem: Land. Farmers in different districts of western UP are up in arms over the money they have been dished out as compensation for land acquired by the state government. The demand is for more and the state government is not in a mood to listen. Again, the problem is not local. After West Bengal, UP may be the next major state that witnesses a political upheaval due to mismanagement of the land question.
With elections in West Bengal safely over, it is easy for Union home minister P. Chidambaram to say that a new Land Acquisition Act is badly needed. It is possible that Mamata Banerjee and others can now be persuaded to support the Bill for this purpose. The question is about mendacity in politics and not about truncated Parliament sessions and other inconveniences. Between the events at Singur and Bhatta Parsaul in Greater Noida, nearly four years have elapsed. In these years the Union government never tried hard to build consensus on the subject. It did not engage opposition parties. And, for that matter, the opposition too could not be bothered with a Bill that held little political charm. The political class did not appreciate the difficult link between farmers’ sense of security from land and land emerging as a big bottleneck for economic growth.
UP provides evidence that this link has not been appreciated. Yesterday, it was West Bengal where the Left Front government rode roughshod over farmers. Today, the same story is being repeated in UP. It can’t be ruled out that the problem will recur elsewhere. Unless there is political consensus on the subject, it will defy resolution.
Will India ever see a refurbished and business-friendly land acquisition law? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org