The CPI (Maoist) has asked the Election Commission to legalise the right to boycott polls. They have issued a call for boycott of 2014 elections, nonetheless.
HT met Maoist leaders at one of their training camps in Gumla on the Jharkhand-Chhattisgarh border. The gun-toting rebels, most of them dressed in black robes, spoke at length on their plans to sabotage the elections and other issues.
“We do not intend to disturb or harm any process,” said Ashish, 35, a state committee leader while he wiped his SLR, looted from police. “If the security forces try to thrust polls on the people, we will retaliate as we did on March 11 in Chhattisgarh, by killing 15 of them.”
No wonder then, fear and anxiety grips polling officers sent to Maoist strongholds. In the recent Chhattisgarh assembly polls, at least four election officers died of heart attack after being sent to sensitive polling booths.
Maoists have a word of caution for them. “Do not risk your lives accompanying police to polling booths. Protest and walk out if you are forced to do so. We do not harm civilians,” said Sylvestor, 55, another commander of the Bihar-Jharkhand-North Chhattisgarh Special Area Committee.
The leaders argued that the prevailing system could never end corruption. “Sting operations and the charades of Lok Adalat and Lokpal Bill are stupid. Over the past 66 years, several governments came and went, but the class divide between the rich and the poor has only widened,” said Deenbandhu, regional secretary of the banned organisation.
“Unfortunately, anyone disagreeing with the poll system is declared a Maoist,” he added.
Maoists claimed the None of the Above (NOTA) or the scratch vote option was meaningless as those in disapproval of all the candidates did not bother going to a polling booth. “Bogus voters cast their ballots instead,” said one of the leaders.
Maoists have strong influence in at least 60 districts spread over eight states. Police have a major challenge holding peaceful polls in the affected districts.
Maoists, however, think election is a farce. “Election boycott is a fundamental right and strength of the people and hence they should be permitted to exercise this right without any hindrance,” said a top Maoist leader.
Meanwhile, fresh banners, posters and pamphlets are out and being clandestinely distributed among villagers. One such pamphlet shown to HT asked people to boycott the 2014 polls and instead work towards bringing a government for, of and by the farmers and the working class.