65,000 security men, but Bastar candidates run scared

November 10th, 2008 - 4:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Dantewada (Chhattisgarh), Nov 10 (IANS) More than 65,000 security personnel have been deployed in the Maoist insurgency-hit Bastar region ahead of the Chhattisgarh polls starting Friday, but politicians still lack the courage to campaign in its interiors.Bastar has 12 seats - 11 of them reserved for Scheduled Tribes - that are going to vote Friday in the state’s first phase of assembly polls in 39 constituencies but there is almost no electioneering in places where rebels have been running a de facto administration since the 1980s.

The region has so far witnessed about 1,100 killings.

Even Mahendra Karma, the leader of opposition and the lone leader in the state who has Z-plus security because of the Maoist threat, is not hitting the interiors.

Karma who is contesting from the Dantewada seat for the Congress and hoping to win it for the third time said: “No need to take a life risk. I am visiting only the safer areas and with sufficient security arrangements. I know they (Maoists) are on the prowl.”

The banned Communist Party of India-Maoist has announced it will target leaders defying their diktat of boycotting the polls.

Rebels showed their intent Oct 20, the first day of filing nominations, by killing 12 Central Reserve Police Force men in Bijapur and Nov 9 when they killed two Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, including the Dantewada district’s party vice president, when they were on the campaign trail.

Police sources said more than 65,000 security personnel have been pumped into Bastar for the Nov 14 polls, including a large number of BSF men.

Bastar Inspector General A. Upadhyay said: “There are enough forces in Bastar. The candidates can campaign by just picking up enough forces from local police bases.

But the candidates are not taking any chances.

Kawasi Lakhma, a Congress candidate for the Konta seat in Dantewada district who is seeking to register a third straight win, said: “You media people know well what ‘dada’ (the local term for Maoists) can do in this territory. Police are always on the run, no one should expect me to go inside the forests on the basis of police security.”

BJP nominee from Bijapur Mahesh Gagra said: “My whole constituency is heavily infested by Maoists, I don’t know which area is safe or unsafe, but the big relief is that my rivals have the same problem.”

The second phase of polls for 51 seats will be held Nov 20.

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