CPI adds flavour to battle for Bastar

March 10th, 2009 - 5:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Raipur, March 10 (IANS) The Communist Party of India (CPI) has turned the battle for Chhattisgarh’s Bastar Lok Sabha seat into a triangular fight by fielding a popular tribal figure from the Maoist insurgency-hit region.
While the seat is currently held by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Baliram Kashyap nicknamed ‘black diamond’, the Congress has bet on a new face, Shankar Singh Sodhi, for the April 16 poll.

But the CPI has now stirred the pot by announcing it will field Manish Kunjam, a former legislator from Konta, one of the assembly segments under the Bastar parliamentary seat.

“By fielding Kunjam, we have definitely made the contest triangular, the BJP can’t say now that it has an easy battle on its hands,” CPI national executive member Chittaranjan Bakshi told IANS.

Being president of the All India Adivasi Mahasabha, an umbrella group of tribal organisations, Kunjam is popular in the interior areas of Bastar where he has held dozens of massive rallies on the tribal peoples’ rights to water, land and jungle.

The Bastar seat is reserved for Scheduled Tribes.

“The CPI is in touch with several non-Congress and non-BJP parties in the state to get their backing to break the BJP’s monopoly in Bastar,” Bakshi said.

The BJP’s Kashyap, however, is confident of recording his fourth successive victory in Bastar in whose interiors Maoists have been running a parallel government since the late 1980s.

“It doesn’t matter whether the Congress or other outfits are deploying new faces or old faces, they are bound to suffer a humiliating loss because I have always maintained relations with the voters and they find me close to them,” Kashyap said on phone.

The Congress’ Sodhi, however, said Kashyap has lost the support of voters. “Kashyap has lost mass support and Bastar people want a change. This time voters will go for Congress,” he claimed.

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