The ‘official poll-stand’ of the ultra-red guerrillas has been diluted in Baghmundi, the Maoist heartland running through the hilly and forested terrain of Ayodhya Hills in Purulia.
The official Maoist stand is of militia offensive against both CPI(M) and Congress and political defiance of other parties.
However, at Baghmundi, this stand of the ultra-Left is directed only towards the Left Front, not Congress. This is probably the only constituency in Jangalmahal — spread over Purulia, West Midnapore and Bankura — where dilution of the official poll stand of Maoists has become a positive factor for Congress.
As a result, while the Congress candidate of Baghmundi, Nepal Mahato, is having virtually a free campaign ride, the All India Forward Bloc candidate, Mongal Mahato, is unable to cover even the dozen villages in and around Ayodhya Hills. The red flags are missing here.
Utterly impoverished villages such as Hedelbera, Usuldungri, Chhatrajera, Simulbera, Puniya Shashan, Beliabhasa and Bandhdi, known to be Maoist strongholds where the police doesn’t venture without paramilitary forces, Nepal Mahato does not have to take police protection.
A two-time Congress MLA from Jhalda, Nepal is now contesting from this newly formed constituency named Bagmundi, carved out of Jhalda and erstwhile Arsha assembly constituencies. Son of former Purulia MP, Deben Mahato, Nepal Mahato is known to be a gutsy leader.
In 2001, when Congress and Trinamool shared seats, Trinamool won in Jhalda constituency despite it being a Congress stronghold. Nepal Mahato then contested as an Independent candidate and won, defeating the then relief minister, Forward Bloc’s Satyaranjan Mahato, as well as Trinamool candidate.
In 2006, too, he was the only Opposition MLA from Jangalmahal. In the last one year of joint operations in the Maoist-dominated Ayodhya Hills, Mahato wrote three letters to Congress leader and Union home minister, P Chidambaram, demanding withdrawal of forces from the area and initiation of talks with the Maoists.
“The Maoist problem can’t be solved at gunpoint. These areas need special care, not armed operations,” he says at campaign rallies. “I’ve told senior Congress leaders to initiate talks with the Maoists instead of spending on the armed operations.”
Mahato gets applause. He hopes these claps will convert to votes. Statistics do not give him any edge over the opponent, but studying the reaction of the audience in his campaign, he declares the statistics too old.
In Baghmundi constituency, the Left won Jhalda panchayat samiti, Baghmundi panchayat samiti, one of the two panchayats from Arsha block in 2008 and the Jhalda Municipality in 2010. In 2009 general elections, however, the Opposition got a measly lead of 1,018 votes in this assembly segment.
“People here do not want the Left Front anymore. They would defeat Forward Bloc by a big margin,” said Nepal Mahato.
Things have changed a lot against Left Front in last one year. Maoists have forced out many CPI(M) and Forward Bloc supporters and leaders from the area, while some have been killed. “Here the Congress and the Maoists are working together against us. They are trying to create a reign of terror but we are confident that people will defeat them,” said Mongal Mahato, a first-time candidate.