In the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra -- known as the hottest Maoist-dominated area in Western India -- posters, banners and loudspeakers, the essential tools of electioneering, become a rarity.
The reason: The CPI (Maoist) has threatened voters and candidates to stay away from the polls and not canvas for any candidates or party through posters and pamphlets.
Of the six assembly segments in the Gadchiroli-Chimur constituency, Gadchiroli, Aheri, Armori and Amgaon are Maoist-affected areas. Gadchiroli has witnessed several killings and abductions during the past elections – both local and national. And now, with less than a week before elections, both leaders and voters seem to be cagey.
“how and where will the people exercise their franchise is a challenging question. Nobody wants to take a chance,” said BV Shekhar, a social activist from Allapalli in south Gadchiroli.
The terror is such that three Zilla Parishad members of south Gadchiroli, including a woman, Madni Bogami, quit when the left extremists threatened them and their families a couple of years ago.
Bogami’s husband, a senior Congress leader and former Zilla Parishad president of Gadchiroli Malu, was kidnapped and killed in 2002 for defying the Maoist diktat of boycotting the 2002 assembly polls.
Based on intelligence inputs, the anti-Maoist operation wings issued advisories to leaders and even asked them to inform the local police about their daily programmes.
The low-key fight for the Gadchiroli-Chimur Lok Sabha seat will be between Namdeo Usendi of the Congress and Ashok Nete of the BJP.
Sitting Congress MP Marotrao Kowase, who was overlooked this time, is not helping Usendi. But Usendi said, “I was instrumental in giving the bamboo rights recently to the tribals. Several bamboo-based industries will be set up in the district soon.