With no sign that Maoists holding MLA Jhina Hikaka would release him soon, Odisha government is exploring back channel negotiations with the ultras to strike a swap deal which could see some jailed Naxals walking free.
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik, who had visited Koraput on Friday, held a crucial meeting with local leaders where the back channel negotiation option figured, a senior official said.
Some people's representatives from Koraput were directed to explore contacts with the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha, a front organisation of Maoists, for striking a deal with ultra group Andhra Pradesh Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) to secure the release the 37-year-old MLA, the official said.
Admitting that the jailed members of CMAS were reluctant to move bail petitions in court for release of their comrades, home secretary UN Behera said on SDaturday efforts nevertheless were being made to convince the lawyers of Maoists and CMAS members to do so.
"So far, the government has decided to facilitate the release of 15 members of CMAS and 8 Maoists through the bail route," Behera said.
"The government is yet to take a decision on the demand of abductors to free seven more people, including hardcore ultra Chenda Bhusanam alias Ghasi."
"There are serious charges against him (Ghasi)," he said replying to a question.
"We are hopeful that the 23 persons members of CMAS and Maoists will file bail petitions by Tuesday," Behera said.
The home secretary said Koraput district administration was in constant touch with CMAS and Maoist lawyers for early filing of bail petitions.
Since the process of release could be made speedily through bail petition, the state government was insisting on it, he said.
Meanwhile, CMAS and Maoist lawyer Nihar Ranjan Patnaik said he had been asked not to file bail petition of any of the 23 persons proposed to be freed by the government.
"How can I move bail petitions when my clients are not ready for it?" Patnaik said.
"We will make a formal demand for withdrawal of cases against the 15 members of CMAS," said CMAS co-advisor Dandapani Mohanty who mediated in the release of the two Italians Claudio Colangelo and Paolo Bosusco.
The AOBSZC has demanded release of 30 prisoners, including Ghasi, accused of killing 55 policemen, in return for the freedom of Hikaka who was kidnapped on March 24 from Koraput district.
"Direct negotiations would have facilitated the process," Behera said.
"With Italian national Paolo Bosusco freed by a separate Maoist group, the state government will now be able to give sufficient time for the resolution of the MLA hostage crisis," a senior official added.