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Maoists want EC to legalise people's right to boycott polls

The outlawed CPI (Maoist) wants the Election Commission of India to legalise the citizens' right to boycott polls.

india Updated: Mar 20, 2014 20:51 IST
B Vijay Murty
B Vijay Murty
Hindustan Times
CPI (Maoist),election commission,lok sabha elections

The outlawed CPI (Maoist) wants the Election Commission of India to legalise the citizens' right to boycott polls.

In an interaction with HT at a Maoist training camp in Gumla on the Jharkhand-Chhatisgarh border, the rebels said the newly introduced None of the Above (NOTA) ballot option was meaningless, as those who disapproved of all candidates did not go to the polling booth and instead bogus voters were made to cast ballots.

"Election boycott is a fundamental right and a strength of the public. Hence, the people must be permitted to exercise this right without any hindrance," said Deenbandhu, regional secretary of the banned party's Bihar-Jharkhand-North Chhattisgarh Special Area Committee.

Maoists exercise influence in at least 60 districts spread over eight states. Conducting peaceful polls in the areas affected by left-wing extremism is a major challenge for the security forces.

Ahead of every election, Maoists in their respective areas distribute pamphlets among locals and put up posters and banners urging the public to boycott polls.

One such pamphlet presented to this correspondent asked the people to bring in a government that was by and for the farmers and the working class.

The rebel leaders argued that the existing system, which has created a huge class divide between rich and poor in the country, could never end corruption.

"Sting operations exposing the corrupt and charades of Lok Adalat and Lokpal Bill are stupid. Several governments have come and gone over the past 66 years, but the class divide has only widened," said Deenbandhu.

He said people must have the choice to decide whether to cast votes or boycott polls.

"Unfortunately, anyone disagreeing with the poll system is declared a Maoist," he said.

"The anguish among people about the prevailing system is mounting with each passing election, which has resulted in declining voter turnout."

Asked if the rebels planned to sabotage the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, CPI (Maoist) state committee leader Ashish said, "We do not intend to disturb or harm any process until we are confronted. Like others, we too reserve the fundamental right to express our opinions. Pushed into the forests, we appeal to the people to boycott the polls."

However, he warned, "If the security forces thrust polls upon the people, we will retaliate just like we did on March 11 in Chhatisgarh killing 15 security men."

The Maoists also have a word of advice for the poll officials sent to Maoist strongholds, where there is a fear of getting caught in a crossfire between rebels and security forces.

In the 2013 Chhatisgarh assembly polls, at least four election officers died of heart attack after the polling staff was airlifted to sensitive polling booths.

"Do not risk your lives accompanying police to the polling booths, instead protest and walk out if you are forced to do so. We do not harm civilians," said Maoist commander Sylvestor.

First Published: Mar 20, 2014 20:35 IST