On top of Matha hills, leaders of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) address public gatherings. While organising such meetings, they cover the area with red flags and banners. This was the situation even four months ago.
If this is not enough an example to show how the Red rebels call the shots in this area, then there are more. In the last two years, 27 CPI(M) workers, besides two police personnel, have been killed by the Maoists. Intelligence inspector Partha Biswas and schoolteacher Soumyajit Das were abducted from this assembly constituency area, encompassing a large portion of the forested Ayodhya hills. Two bodies were later recovered and DNA tests have to be conducted for a positive identification.
Without the presence of any mainstream opposition party, in this hilly, forested and impoverished terrain, over the past one decade, the Maoists have become the only and a major opposition to the uninterrupted Left Front regime since '77.
The increase in Maoist activities has hit the Left Front badly. With 'winds of change' blowing across the state, Balarampur too witnessed increase in Opposition support. The 2009 general election result gave a more prominent indication of this change, when the Opposition secured a lead of 8,828 votes in the Balarampur assembly segment of Purulia parliamentary seat.
However, the CPI(M) has played a master stroke here by fielding former vice-president of Comprehensive Area Development Corporation (CADC), through which Manindra Gope had once brought many development projects in the area. "There is no doubt that we would win in Balarampur. Our candidate is a pioneering figure in developing the Balarampur area and people have not forgotten his contributions," said Nakul Mahato, Purulia district secretary of CPI(M).
Following delimitation, Balarampur is composed of the Balarampur community development block, Chakaltore, Dimdiha, Durku, Garafusra, Lagda and Sonaijuri gram panchayats of Purulia 1 community development block, and Chatu, Hansa, Hensla and Puara gram panchayats of Arsha community development block. Besides Gope's role in ushering in development, the CPI(M) is also campaigning against the alleged Trinamool-Maoist liaison. By citing the death of their supporters in the hands of the Maoists, CPI(M) is urging people to vote against Trinamool if they want peace in the area.
Mahato, however, is confident that CPI(M)'s campaign over Trinamool-Maoist liaison would not affect their vote bank.
"People know very well that these are all Left's false propaganda to suppress the fact that they had not brought any development to this area and hence it remains one of the most impoverished area in the state," said Santiram Mahato, Trinamool's Purulia district president and candidate from Balarampur.
Mahato also blamed Gope for Comprehensive Area Development Corporation's gradually decreasing performance, which they allege starting during the tenure of Gope. Claims and counter-claims apart, Balarampur remains extremely tensed on the eve of the polls, and central paramilitary forces have covered up almost every corner. Whether this Red bastion falls too is just another three-day wait.