The well-planned attack on a Congress convoy on Saturday in Bastar with a deadly impact that virtually wiped out the Congress’ who’s who list in Chhattisgarh is a sign of a paradigm shift in the tactics of the Maoists in the state. And the latest warning to the Raman Singh-led BJP reinforces just that.
“No longer are Maoists in Chhattisgarh targeting just policemen and security personnel. Their guns are trained on the political class now,” said a top security official engaged in anti Maoist operations, on condition that he is not named.
For quite some months, the Maoists have been suffering serious military reverses due to sustained operations. This is a time when they carry out offensives as part of their Tactical Counter Offensive Campaigns (TCOC) from mid March to mid June every year. And with the approaching Monsoons, the window for a big strike was getting smaller.
“Moreover, the morale of the cadres from the bottom upwards was sinking with more than half of the Central Committee members either behind bars or having been eliminated. There was therefore an imperative need to stage a spectacular strike fast and hard,” said Prof Kumar Sanjay Singh, an expert on Maoist strategy and ideology.
“It was a God-sent opportunity the Maoists were waiting for. Because of the high-profile targets, this was a decision that was must have been cleared at the apex Politburo level possibly after considerable brainstorming,” said the security official.
Of course, the ill-guarded Congress convoy which ferried Salwa Judum founder Mahendra Karma and state Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel was only too tempting for the Maoists.
The changing policy is however fraught with tremendous dangers from the Maoist point of view. Among other implications, it will also make way for a consolidation of political forces across the spectrum and also invite more vicious and intense anti Maoist operations by the security forces.
This scenario has precedence in Andhra Pradesh following an assassination attempt of then AP CM Chandrababu Naidu in October 2003. The state went after the Maoists and inflicted deep reverse from which the ultra leftists found difficult to recover and had to shift base.
It was a déjà vu situation in West Bengal too after the Maoists’ failed attempt on the life of then CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya in November 2008.
The possibility of a similar situation is strong now in Chhattisgarh.
In effect, the Maoist leadership may have considered trade-offs and decided to favour short term gains over long term aims.
“For Maoists, the strike and its fallout may yield some gains in the short term such as a boost to their morale, widespread publicity and a purported ability to strike at will, but in the long term, it would be counterproductive as it would invite the state to hit them harder. Anti Naxal operations will be more aggressive and focused,” says Prof Singh.