March 8: The fear of Maoists hanging like a sword, the CPM has drawn up campaign guidelines for candidates on rebel turf that include VIP-like secrecy over their travel plans and human shields.
Leaders in West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia have warned party workers that the rebels might target candidates to disrupt the elections and trigger panic.
After the guerrillas killed Kartik Singha and Gatilal Tudu at Lalgarh in West Midnapore and Barikul in Bankura earlier this week, the party discussed the candidates' threat perception for two days.
'It is now clear that the Maoists will target more of our members. We have asked our leaders in the Maoist-dominated areas to chalk out a strategy to protect the candidates,' said Dahareswar Sen, a member of the party's West Midnapore secretariat.
The leadership has short-listed 11 constituencies where party workers would be on high alert ' Binpur, Salboni, Garbeta East and West in West Midnapore, Ranibandh and Raipur in Bankura and Bandwan, Manbazar, Arsha, Joypur and Jhalda in Purulia.
In these places, party workers will build up their own intelligence network.
The candidates' itineraries for door-to-door campaign are being kept secret till the last moment, a CPM source said.
Cadre carrying traditional weapons such as bows and arrows and tangis (hatchets) will throw a security ring around the candidates. 'These are tribal-dominated areas and there is no problem if they carry traditional weapons. The candidates' protection is of foremost importance,' a leader said.
Party workers accompanying a candidate will carry phones with connections to all service providers to ensure that all lines of communication do not get snapped at the same time. The cadre in the villages have also been told to report new arrivals immediately.
In places where a candidate has to pass through dense forests, they will check the routes for telltale signs of the presence of guerrillas ' ovens, plastic bags, food packets or water bottles. 'If there is anything unusual, they will immediately inform local leaders,' said a CPM member of Belpahari in West Midnapore.
'Kartik Singha was a booth convener. So, we have cau- tioned all booth conveners in these areas,' Sen said.
CPM leaders in the war zone now openly admit that they have little faith in police. 'We have had a bitter experience with them. Our candidates, for example Deblina Hembram of Ranibandh, are on their hit list. Our supporters will protect them,' Patra said.
However, Midnapore range deputy inspector-general Gangeswar Singh said security would be provided to all candidates in the disturbed areas.