Lawmakers in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, voted Monday to support a call for it to be split into four smaller states.
State Chief Minister Mayawati, who uses only one name, recently revived a proposal she's been lobbying for years, saying such a four-way split would foster development and accountability.
The state is among India's poorest and has among the lowest life expectancy and child mortality rates. With 200 million people, it has a larger population than all but five countries in the world.
Analysts say there is a political calculation as well. The Congress party-led central government risks alienating state voters if it rejects the proposal, but granting it gives Mayawati's regional party three more states to potentially govern.
"The government has passed the proposal by voice vote," Mayawati said after the vote Monday by the state assembly. The resolution holds no procedural or legal weight. "The ball is now in Congress' court."
Her idea is to create four new states called Purvanchal, Bundelkhand, Paschim Pradesh and Awadh Pradesh.
Congress also faces calls for splitting the states of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, where residents who feel marginalized have demanded more representation.
There is little groundswell within Uttar Pradesh, however, for dividing the state, and opposition parties have come out against the proposal. The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party's state leader called Mayawati's effort a "political stunt."
"The intention of the government was not clean," Om Prakash Singh said, adding that the assembly rushed through its debate before holding the vote.