It’s a battle of ballots that will be fought under the shadow of bullets in Bihar’s Suryagarha constituency, one of the hotbeds of Maoist insurgency in the state.
No party will officially acknowledge it but it is an open secret that the support of the CPI-Maoist – the dominant Left-wing insurgent group in the state – is crucial for winning the electoral battle in this constituency which goes to the polls on October 12.
Though not as influential as before, the Red rebels are now mainly concentrated in the deeply forested Kajra hills where Maoist rebels had ambushed and killed seven policemen in 2010. The Red brigade had also abducted four police personnel and killed one of them before releasing the other three.
Though a poll boycott call by the CPI-Maoists is seen as just a muscle-flexing by the rebels, sources said both the BJP and the RJD have sent feelers to the rebel leaders seeking support during the elections.
“Any assurance from squad leaders, however, is yet to come,” an RJD insider said.
The main contest is expected to be between the RJD’s Prahlad Yadav and BJP’s sitting legislator Prem Ranjan Patel, a two-time MLA.
Patel admitted that “the Kajra hills are definitely crucial for the elections”.
Official sources said there are around 70 polling booths in the Kajra hills, which serve as a safe route for the rebels to and from the insurgency breeding ground of Jamui and onwards to the safe havens of Jharkhand.
A poll observer who refused to be identified said that the rebel leaders usually take a decision at the last moment. “In the deal, money usually changes hands.”
Out of around 2.6 lakh voters in the constituency, 60,000 are in and around the Kajra hills.