iconimg Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ejaz Kaiser
Bastar, Chattisgarh, April 06, 2014
There is no wave in the red-hot Maoist land of Bastar, only an undercurrent of fear unleashed by Left-wing extremists. And a past which links the three major parties in the fray.
 
The Maoists have already made it clear that they have nothing to do with the democratic process scheduled for April 10.
 
But in a land dominated by rebels, the polls are all about the Maoists and the BJP, Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)'s attempt to gain votes on "sympathy" factor. All three claim to be 'victims' of Maoist violence in the virtual war zone in south Chhattisgarh.
 
The candidates are not sure the three-decade-old menace can be resolved politically. Nevertheless, they claim that the "adversity endured" by them and their family-members were largely owing to Maoist violence.
 
The Congress party and the AAP have been accusing the BJP regime of a "partisan" attitude in the troubled zone. 
  
Deepak Karma (37), president of Dantewada nagar panchayat and son of slain tribal leader Mahendra Karma is the Congress candidate here.
 
Mahendra Karma was killed in a deadly Maoist attack on a Congress convoy in May 2013.  The ambush did help the party to pick up dividends of a "perceived" sympathy in the aftermath of the attack.
 
Devti, mother of Deepak, apparently gained during the assembly polls and won the Dantewada seat.
 
The party is still banking on the sympathy factor, blaming the state government for security lapses that led to the audacious attack.
 
The ruling BJP too claims that the party had lost local cadres and leaders in Maoist attacks.
 
"We are fighting the hostile environment across large parts of Bastar that continues to affect our families," said the sitting BJP MP Dinesh Kashyap (46).
 
He won the Bastar by-poll primarily owing to "sympathy" following the death of his father Baliram Kashyap (75), a four-time Bastar MP, in 2011. His elder Tansen was shot dead by Maoists in September 2009 while he had a miraculous escape.
 
Referring to the "popularity" of Baliram, BJP leaders in Jagdalpur argued:"Yahan jan neta Baliram ke naam se jeet pakki hai, Modi ke karan nahi" (The party will win on the name of Baliram, popular among tribals, and not due to Narendra Modi).
 
"My aim is to accomplish my father's unfinished work catering to the needs of tribals," Kashyap told HT.
 
Interestingly, the AAP is getting a better response in Bastar than anywhere in the state. Suspected 'Maoist sympathiser' and AAP candidate Soni Sori (39) fears the threat more from the state than the Red brigade.
 
The tribal teacher was arrested by police in 2011 for allegedly acting as a conduit in fund transfer from a well-known private company to Maoists.
 
"I was falsely implicated and subsequently tortured by the police. The tribals are getting to know how my family suffered and I was shattered. The people's empathy will be with me," she told HT.
 
In February this year, the Supreme Court in February granted her permanent bail. Her mother fell ill and died in 2012, her husband passed away in 2013 and father sustained bullet injuries during an attacked by suspected Maoists.
 
"Sops and the sympathy work equally among the tribals," opined Shashank Sharma, a political analyst. 
 
The government machinery, on the other hand, is leaving nothing to chance due to the poll boycott call by the left-wing extremists.
 
"Adequate" security forces been deployed to ensure free and peaceful elections.
 
The Bastar collector and returning officer Ankit Anand told HT that 251 polling booths are being shifted to safe zones.
 
The Election Commission has rescheduled the timing of polling from 7 am to 3 pm in all districts -- except Jagdalpur of Bastar division -- to allow the polling staff finish their work and return before sunset.
 
Around ten choppers and unmanned aerial vehicles would be put to use during the polls, a senior intelligence officer revealed.
 
"We have sufficient forces deployed to conduct the polls peacefully," said RK Vij, additional director general of police (anti-Maoist operations).

Bastar in numbers
 
Total voters: 12,94,523
Male: 6,31,575
Female: 6,62,948
Total polling booths: 1,794
Sensitive: 557
Hypersensitive: 666