BJP legislator, 4 security personnel killed in Maoist attack in Dantewada
Sources from the police said the carcade of Bheema Mandavi, the MLA of Dantewada constituency, was attacked with IEDs. An SUV was blown off by the Maoists in the attack.Updated: Apr 29, 2020, 18:36 IST
A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator, Bhima Mandavi, and four other accompanying him in a convoy of vehicles were killed when Maoist rebels triggered an improvised explosive device (IED) in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar on Tuesday, two days before the region votes in the first phase of the 2019 general election.
The IED was detonated when the convoy was passing through Shyamagiri hills in south Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district at about 4.30 pm, the police said. The Bastar Lok Sabha constituency, where Left-wing insurgents are active, votes with 90 other parliamentary wards on April 11 in the first phase of the general election staggered over seven phases.
Mandavi’s convoy was heading towards Kuwakonda in Dantewada district from the Bacheli area, about 450 km from state capital Raipur. Along with Mandavi, the MLA from Dantewada, a driver indentified as Danteshwar Maurya and three security personnel, district force troopers Chhagan Kuldeep, Somdu Kawasi and Ramlal Oyami, were killed in the blast, police said.
The bullet-proof sports utility vehicle in which the legislator was travelling was blown up in the attack. Mandavi had crossed the same stretch of road on Monday with a team of district reserve guards on a journey that had passed without incident, Dantewada’s superintendent of police (SP) Abhishek Pallav said.
Director general of police DM Awasthi said Mandavi had been warned of a possible Maoist attack on Tuesday, but he decided to go ahead with the journey.
“After winding up his Lok Sabha campaign, Mandavi started moving towards Kuankonda bazaar and then the station house officer of Kirnadul police station, Sheel Aditya Singh, called him and requested him not to continue the journey,” Awasthi said. No personnel were around to clear the road nor had security arrangements been made on the way. The MLA continued his journey with three vehicles in the convoy, Awasthi said. During his campaign, Mandavi had security cover of about 50 personnel in 10 vehicles.
Girdhari Nayak, special director general (anti-naxal operations ), said about 30 Maoists attacked the convoy after the IED blast, but fled after security personnel fired on them.
The Maoists were from the Malangir Area Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), Nayak said.
Awasthi said the blast created a crater about six-feet wide and deep. “The size of the crater suggests that the IED could be around 60-70 kg and would have been triggered from about 100 metres,” he said.
It was the second attack by Maoists in this election season. On April 4, four Border Security Force (BSF) personnel were killed when their convoy was attacked by the rebels in Kanker. A day later, a Central Reserve Police Force trooper,Harish Chandra Pal, 44, was killed in Dhamtari area of Bolad district, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a rally on Sunday.
The Election Commission of India held a video conference with district civic and police heads, urging them to take maximum precautions. “EC has asked for extra caution, adherence to standard operating procedures and protection of EVMs and VVPATs in Chhattisgarh,” the election commission said in a statement in Delhi. EVM is short for electronic voting machine and VVPAT stands for voter verifiable paper audit trail.
Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel spoke to the DG, anti-Naxal operations, and ordered a high-level inquiry, an official said.
“I will be participating in the funeral tomorrow. Tribute will be paid to the jawans at police ground. Home minister, I and DG will be present there [Dantewada],” Baghel tweeted.
Former Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh said, “I am in contact with Central ministers and spoke to PM Narendra Modi an hour ago. I will go to Dantewada and meet families of the deceased.”
BJP president Amit Shah said he was “anguished” by the killing. “Such an act of cowardice cannot deter BJP from its commitment to fight Naxalism,” Shah added.
Chhattisgarh’s chief electoral officerSubrata Sahu said the situation was being monitored and that he had submitted a report to the election commission, which could take a call on postponing the polls in Bastar.
In the last three years, 336 Maoists and 151 security personnel have been killed in Chhattisgarh in violence linked to Left-wing insurgency. From January 2018 to January 2019, 15 Maoists and 52 security personnel were killed. Nine Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers were killed in March 2018 when the rebels blew up a vehicle in Sukma.
Before the 2013 assembly election, the entire top leadership of the Chhattisgarh Congress was wiped out in a Maoist attack on a convoy at Darba Valley of Sukma district, including then state party chief Nand Kumar Patel, senior party leader VC Shukla and party legislator Mahendra Karma.