Maoist sympathiser Chhatradhar Mahato, currently in jail, filed nomination on Tuesday for contesting as an independent candidate from the Jhargram assembly constituency, with support from intellectuals such as writer Maheswata Devi.
Mahato (45), former spokesperson of the Maoist-backed People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), is contesting under the banner of the Santras-Durniti Samrajyabadi Aagrasan Birodhi Ganatantrik Mancha (democratic platform against terror, corruption and imperialist aggression).
Law allows a jailed person to contest elections as long as she or he is not convicted.
“As I cannot campaign, my supporters will do it for me. I also request the Election Commission and district administration to ensure that those who campaign for me are not harassed,” Mahato told HT.
He also requested Jnanpith-winner Mahashweta Devi, 85, and other intellectuals to come to the area and campaign for him and his cause in the way they had stood against the land acquisition moves of the state government in 2009. Mahasweta Devi is amenable to Mahato’s request. “Chhatradhar’s demands are justified. Though I cannot go to campaign because I am not keeping good health, I do endorse his demands and urge the voters there to vote for him,” she told HT.
Mahato is one of the most prominent campaigners for tribal rights and supporters of the Maoist struggle in West Bengal, and his constituency, which has rebel hotspots such as Lalgarh, Ramgarh, Kantapahari, Manikpara and Sapdhara, will go to polls on May 10.
Jhargram sub-divisional court additional chief judicial magistrate SK Mohammad Reza on April 6 had acceded to Mahato’s plea to contest.