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Polls Will Be Held on Time, Says EC After Naxal Attack in Dantewada Kills BJP MLA, Cops 36 Hrs Before Voting

The Election Commission later said that polling in the state would be held as per schedule.


Updated:April 9, 2019, 10:08 PM IST
Polls Will Be Held on Time, Says EC After Naxal Attack in Dantewada Kills BJP MLA, Cops 36 Hrs Before Voting
A file photo shows the site of the explosion in Dantewada on April 9.

New Delhi: A BJP MLA and four security personnel were killed after Naxals attacked a convoy in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada on Tuesday afternoon. The BJP leader was identified as Bhima Mandavi, an MLA from Dantewada.

The incident, which took place in Shyamgiri under the Kuakonda police station, comes two days ahead of polling for the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections in Bastar. Later in the day, the Election Commission confirmed that the polling would be held as per schedule.

According to a preliminary report, the dead included Mandavi's driver Danteshwar Maurya and three jawans of the district force identified as Chhagan Kuldeep, Somdu Kawasi and Ramlal Oyami. At least three weapons were also reported missing from the spot after the attack.

The IED (improvised explosive device) blast triggered by Naxals hit the two-vehicle convoy as it passed the area near Shyamgiri hills, said officials.

Mandavi, who was in the second car, was en route to Kuankonda from Kirandul after presiding over a meeting of the BJP's Mahila Morcha (women's wing). He was going to check the poll-preparedness of party workers there. The explosion targeted the first car, which had security personnel travelling in it.

The second car, with Mandavi, was showered upon by bullets. Central Reserve Police Force personnel were rushed to the spot.

The police had advised political convoys to stick to main roads, sources told News18. But the BJP convoy took a short cut — from Bacheli to Nakulnad via Kuakondato — to save time on the last day of campaigning.

The Central Reserve Police Force, in a statement, said, "Between Kuakonta and Syamgiri in Dantewada, the convoy of BJP MLA Bheema Mandavi came under an IED attack today. The escort vehicle of State Police came under the blast. Five personnel of Chhattisgarh State Police are critically injured. Reinforcement of CRPF has been rushed."

In a similar incident in 2014 in the area, the Naxals had laid an ambush, killing seven security personnel.

The BJP MLA Mandavi was the deputy leader of the Opposition. In last year's Assembly elections, Mandavi had defeated "Bastar Tiger" Mahendra Karma's wife and current legislator Devi Karma. Mahendra Karma was responsible for giving shape to the vigilante group Salwa Judum.

Condemning the incident, Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel said, "Who would know the pain more than members of a party who lost an entire generation of leaders to Naxal attack. Since our government is working continuously to win the trust of the tribal people, Naxals are scared. I have asked the officers to take stern action and retaliate to every attack."

Baghel said he was in touch with central ministries and had spoken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ANI reported. "I'll go to Dantewada and meet families of the deceased," he said.

Dantewada falls in the Bastar Lok Sabha constituency, which will go to polls in the first phase on April 11. A security blanket of over 80,000 personnel, and drones, has been deputed in and around the Naxal-infested Bastar region.

The Chhattisgarh chief electoral officer, via video-conferencing, held a meeting with the collectors and superintendents of police of the affected districts covering phases 1 and 2 and instructed them to take the utmost precaution over the coming days.

PM Modi and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi offered their condolences.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala condemned the "cowardly attack" incident and said it would not prevent democracy from flourishing.

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