Naxal shadow over six panchayat polls in Odisha

Naxal shadow over six panchayat polls in Odisha

Naxal presence in the state is likely to take its toll on the ensuing panchayat elections in the state.  Rebels are trying to dissuade voters from participating in the elections.

Naxal posters urging the people to boycott the poll have been spotted at interior pockets of the Maoist-hit districts like Bolangir, Malkangiri, Koraput, Sundergarh and Mayurbhanj, triggering fear among the villagers.

The Maoist cadres have gone to the extent of directing the villagers to vote for candidates  “selected” by the Naxals.

A case in point are the six panchayats under the Kalimela block of Malkangiri, worst hit by the Maoist menace. Election campaign here has been severely hit following the Maoist diktat. “Campaigning has virtually come to a standstill in these areas as candidates are reluctant to go out fearing for their lives. In these pockets of the district it is very difficult to go against the Naxals’ diktat,” said a candidate for the Malkangiri Zilla Parishad membership.

Though no candidate has been harmed yet, possibilities of such untoward incident cannot be ruled out, especially as the Maoists have a record of striking just ahead of the poll.

Ahead of the previous Assembly election, the Maoists had eliminated a zilla parishad member and  a former president of the zilla parishad in Malkangiri.

However, officials in the state Home Department and the state Election Commission said local administrations in the Naxal-hit districts have been instructed to intensify patrolling and combing operations.

 “Combing operations by the state police and para-military forces have already begun in the Naxal-infested districts. We hope for a peaceful polling in these districts,” said a Home Department official on Monday. The Panchayat elections will be held in the state in five phases from February 11.