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Friday, April 18, 2014

Maoists Appear Divided Over Tactics During Elections 2014

By Chandan Rai (Guest Writer)

The outlawed CPI (Maoist) appears, which has given a call for boycotting the 16 th Lok Sabha polls, appear to be divided regarding their tactics vis-à-vis the largest democratic exercise worldwide.

If the recent activities of the banned Left Wing Extremist outfit CPI (Maoist) are any indications, they seem to be split over their modus operandi during the 16th Lok Sabha elections. While they have given a poll boycott call in a number of their pocket areas in Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh, the Red rebels have decided to urge the people to opt for the NOTA (none of the above) option in various areas.
Moreover, in some areas they have fielded their nominees as Independent candidates, while in others they are helping their ‘sympathizers’ to win the polls.

Odisha Police DGP, Prakash Mishra confirmed, “Yes, we have reports that the People Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) of CPI (Maoists) have circulated posters and pamphlets in no less than five districts, including Malkangiri, Rayagada, Nuapada and Gariabandh, warning people of dire consequences if they exercised their franchise during the polls.” The picture is similar in Gardchiroli district of Maharashtra and Raipur, Dantewada and Sukma districts of Chhattisgarh, where the Red rebels have been circulating video clips and sending SMS texts threatening people not to participate in the elections.

On the other hand, the Maoists have urged the electorate in West Bengal’s Jangal Mahal (West Midnapore district) and Jharkhand’s Bokaro district to reject all the candidates by using the NOTA option on the EVM (electronic voting machine), as none of the candidates in fray have worked for the upliftment of the people or the regions.

Surprisingly, the outlawed group has even fielded 29-year-old Mahadev Rabinath Pahan, a cousin of a zonal Maoist commander Kundan Pahan, who carries a reward of INR 10 lakh on his head, as an Independent candidate from the Khunti Lok Sabha constituency in Jharkhand. The outfit has also extended its support to Kameshwar Baitha, a former Maoist central committee member who is contesting the Palamu (reserved) constituency as a Trinamool Congress candidate.

In addition, in an intelligence report sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on March 31, hints about close affiliations between local politicians and Maoist leaders in Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Odisha. Making a specific reference, the report says, “Input received on March 30, 2014 reveals that the Maoists in Bihar’s Jamui district have reportedly reached an agreement with Janata Dal (United) candidate from the constituency Uday Narayan Choudhary and reportedly assured him of their support during the GPE-14.”

According to the intelligence report, the JD (U) leader, who is also the Speaker of the Bihar Legislative Assembly, had recently got in touch with a special Maoist platoon commander Sidhu Manhji alias Sidhu Koda seeking his outfit’s support in the elections. The report adds, “Sidhu and his colleagues reportedly agreed to support him in lieu of money.”

When contacted Singh vehemently refuted the allegations saying, “This is a conspiracy by my political rivals, who feel threatened by my popularity in the area. I will sue them if they cannot prove the allegations.”

Mahadev Rabinath Pahan too has asserted that he has nothing to do with the Maoists or his cousin Kundan Pahan, but the locals are not assured.  Balaram Kalindi, a local trader, asks “Mahadev is a resident of Bokaro and has never visited Khunti earlier, so why should he contest the polls from here?” Even the local police are of the view that fielding his cousin from his home constituency is a tactical move by the dreaded Maoist leader, who wants to ensure that his sway of the people in the region remains in tact.

Commenting on the divergent approach of the Maoists in different areas, senior BJP leader and a former Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda told this correspondent, “Aware of their limited resources and lack of public support, the Maoists are seeking an easy way out by asking people to opt for the NOTA option. Assembly elections held in Chhattisgarh last year proved that people no longer paid any heed to their poll boycott calls.”

Senior journalist and a Maoist expert Prabal Mahato said, “Like any other political group in the country, the Maoists have become opportunists. They have given poll boycott calls where the local governments are opposed to them, while urging people to use the NOTA option where they have ‘friendly’ or ‘sympathetic’ governments.”

“In West Bengal, Maoists are comfortable with the Trinamool government and, hence, they have urged the people of Jangal Mahal to use NOTA, which is an indirect message to the people to support the candidates of the ruling party. In Jharkhand, the Maoists have found a sympathizer in the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha-led coalition government and, therefore, it is not surprising that they have fielded a candidate from Khunti.”

Refusing to comment on the issue of Maoist alliance with political leaders, Jharkhand DGP Rajeev Kumar said, “Whatever may be the case, we are not taking any chances. The Red rebels have a track record of disrupting the democratic process and so we have already strengthened vigil and are committed to foil their designs. At the same time, our forces are also working hard to instill confidence among the electorate, particularly those in the remote, rural areas.”
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