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Polling in Chhattisgarh to Go Ahead As Planned After BJP MLA, 4 Others Killed in Dantewada Attack

The BJP claimed the Congress-led state government was involved in a 'political conspiracy' that had led to the attack. The saffron party also asked the Election Commission to take control of security in Chhattisgarh.


Updated:April 10, 2019, 7:38 AM IST
Polling in Chhattisgarh to Go Ahead As Planned After BJP MLA, 4 Others Killed in Dantewada Attack
The BJP claimed the Congress-led state government was involved in a 'political conspiracy' that had led to the attack. The saffron party also asked the Election Commission to take control of security in Chhattisgarh.

New Delhi: A deadly Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district on Tuesday killed a Bharatiya Janata Party MLA and four security personnel, two days before polling for phase 1 is set to begin in the state.

The Election Commission confirmed later that polling would go ahead as scheduled in the aftermath of the blast that killed Bhima Mandavi, an MLA from Dantewada.

Mandavi was in a two-vehicle convoy en route to Kuankonda from Kirandul. The pilot vehicle, comprising the security personnel, bore the full brunt of the IED (improvised explosive device) attack as it passed over the ambush laid by the Maoists near the Shyamgiri hills and was ripped to pieces.

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 reported missing from the spot after the attack.

The Maoists also opened fire at the second vehicle in which Mandavi was travelling. The legislator lost his life in the ensuing shootout. Central Reserve Police Force personnel were immediately rushed to the spot.

Mandavi, who was on the way to Kuankonda to check the poll-preparedness of party workers, had presided over a meeting of the BJP's Mahila Morcha (women's wing) in Kirandul.

Police sources told News18 that political convoys had been advised to stick to main roads and avoid side tracks in the run-up to the elections. But the BJP convoy took a short cut — from Bacheli to Nakulnad via Kuakondato — to save time on the last day of campaigning.

In a statement, the CRPF confirmed that the escort vehicle of the state police had come under the blast between Kuakonta and Shyamgiri in Dantewada.

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.

In a similar incident in March 2014, 15 security personnel, including 11 CRPF jawans, were killed in Dantewada’s Tongapal area when Naxals ambushed a team out on an operational task.

'Polls will go ahead as scheduled'

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.

Chhattisgarh Chief Electoral Officer Subrat Sahu, 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.

"Polling will go on as per schedule," EC officials said quoting Sahu.

The BJP, meanwhile, demanded that the poll panel take control of security in Chhattisgarh.

A delegation of party leaders, including state BJP chief Vikram Usendi and former minister Brijmohan Agrawal, submitted a letter to Chhattisgarh's Chief Electoral Officer late on Tuesday.

The letter demanded a CBI probe into the attack and urged the commission to make extensive security arrangements for the polling by taking control of the entire security set-up.

The letter alleged that the Congress government in the state was hand in glove with Naxals, adding that the attack took place due to a "political conspiracy" which the CBI should probe. As there was fear in the region, the EC should take over all control of the security arrangements, it said.

Leaders condole deaths

Several leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi, offered their condolences and condemned the attack.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said such a "cowardly attack" would not prevent democracy from flourishing.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said he was in touch with central ministries and had spoken to PM Modi after the attack. “I'll go to Dantewada and meet the families of the deceased," he said, adding he would attend Mandavi’s funeral on Wednesday.

The Congress government’s offensive against the Naxals had frightened them, which had resulted in them carrying out the ambush, he claimed. "Our government is trying to win the confidence of tribal people in the entire state, including Bastar. This ghastly act is outcome of their (Naxals’) frustration," Baghel said.

"We again repeat our commitment to our fight to strengthen parliamentary democracy. I have reiterated my directive to officials to give reply to Naxals' bullets in their own language," he added.

Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das said the attack would “neither dent the morale of the security forces nor of the BJP”. “The entire country is with the bereaved families," he said.

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