Call it their changed strategy or dwindling influence, the CPI (Maoists) failed to play a spoilsport during the third assembly polls in Jharkhand.
There are interestingly many reasons to their unnatural stance—right from their admission to their weakening hold to government’s awareness campaigns in the tribal areas, security forces tight vigil and the election commission's tripling the security presence as compared to the previous elections.
Whatever, experts call it a good sign for the democracy in a state where 22 out of the 24 districts are still considered to be affected by the red rebels, Maoists for a change had refrained from making any major statements on their plans to disrupt the elections which concluded in five phases, beginning on November 25. As a result, record voting turnout-increase of 6 to 20 % - was seen in constituencies under their control.
Strangely, in the first week of December, while the elections were on, the Maoists observed martyrs’ week to commemorate foundation of their combat force, PLGA, and addressed villagers at few places. But there too, polls were missing from their addresses.
So have the Maoists accepted defeat? "Yes, in fact they are on the verge of extinction here," says R K Mishra, inspector general (IG), CRPF.
"The rebels too have realised that the path of violence was not going to take them further in their self-claimed proletarian war," he said.
Jharkhand police IG (Operation) ML Meena said timely flow of information about the Maoists’ nefarious designs was the most positive thing about this election. "Our elite Cobra and Jaguar fighters thwarted their adventurous missions before the rebels could execute," he said.
In a handout released among villagers during the poll, Maoists have conceded that their oganisation has weekend in Jharkhand where they are fighting not only the security forces but several splinter outfits who are working as spy agents for the forces.
There are 17 such outfits enlisted as outlaw left wing extremists (LWE), but many of them enjoy police patronage as they fight the bigger enemy-Maoists.
So drifting from their past strategy of enforcing poll boycott, Maoists turned neutral in certain areas and supported candidates of their choice in other areas. "This is a good sign for democracy that Maoists are supporting candidates and even fielding family members in the polls," Mishra said.
Tamad constituency had at least three candidates who were close relatives of Maoist leaders.
Maoists' related violence has also come down in the state. Compared to 131 killings in 2013, Jharkhand recorded 95 killings by LWE this year. Splinter organizations like PLFI and TPC accounted for most of those killings.
Recently, in a 7000-word letter to party members, Maoists central committee general secretary Mupalla Laxman Rao aka Ganapathy has confessed to a crisis within the party 'due to lack of leaders at the top and also within the ranks'.
The letter mentions that ratio of men and women in the party have changed with women constituting 60 % of the cadre. The government attributes the decline of the Maoists to the development projects in tribal areas.
Ganapathy said while a huge number of their cadres have surrendered or joined mainstream politics, several have become police informers, joined vigilante groups or formed bands of extortionists in several places. Vigilante groups have 'surrendering ceremonies' where Maoists lay down arms and join the groups to help catch their former comrades.
Ganapathi pointed out that only three central committee members working outside guerilla zones were free as of now. The rest have been killed or are in custody.