Senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh has differed with Home Minister P Chidambaram over treating the Naxalite issue as a law and order problem and has called for a rethink of the counter-Maoist strategy.
At the same time, Singh, a former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, said, "The buck stops with the chief minister for law and order and not with the Union Home Minister
"In this case (regarding Maoists), I have differed with his (Chidambaram's) strategy that does not take into consideration the people living in the affected area who ultimately matter. He is treating it purely as a law and order problem without taking into consideration the issues that affect the tribals", Singh said.
In an article in a newspaper, Singh, in whose tenure as Chief Minister the Maoist-affected Chhattisgarh was carved out of Madhya Pradesh, said, "When I raised these issues with him (Chidambaram), he said it was not his responsibility."
Singh said he has known Chidambaram since 1985 when he and the Home Minister were both elected to Parliament.
"He is extremely intelligent, articulate, committed and a sincere politician - but extremely rigid once he makes up his mind.I have been a victim of his intellectual arrogance many times, but we still are good friends.
"I strongly believe in the collective responsibility of the Cabinet, and as the Home Minister, it is his responsibility to take a holistic view of the issue and put it up to the Cabinet rather than opt for a narrow sectarian view. The Home Minister is also a member of the core group," the AICC General Secretary said.
Singh's statement is significant as it has come close on the heels of the Dantewada massacre in which Maoists killed 75 CRPF jawans and one Chhattisgarh policeman.
"Maoists, at the most, are misguided ideologues who have lost faith in the system and feel that the only way to deliver is through the barrel of a gun.
"But the sheen of that political ideology appears to be wearing off when we see traders, forest contractors, industrialists and mining companies carrying on their business without a problem - in fact, quite merrily - in the Naxalite-dominated areas," Singh said in the article titled 'Rethink counter-Maoist strategy".
He said, "The Centre provides central forces at the request of the state government and their deployment is the responsibility of the state government. In this incident, where was the state police? I believe it was represented only by a head constable.
"Why is the home minister taking the flak when it is the chief minister who should be answering the questions?" he asked
He said the problem could be resolved by paying more attention to the issues of livelihood of local people and governance rather than converting the serene and calm environment of Bastar into a battlefield.
"Ultimately, whether the bullet is fired from a Naxal's gun or a policeman', the victim is an ordinary Indian citizen", he said.