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Phase I poll pitch for 33 Naxalite hubs

New Delhi, Feb. 25: The Union home ministry has asked Election Commission to ensure Lok Sabha polls were held in 33 Naxalite-affected districts of central India in the first phase of voting to deny rebels breathing time to plan disruptions at various centres.

The ministry provided details of violence in the 33 worst effected districts of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Odisha, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh where the highest number of incidents was registered during the elections of 2004, 2009 and later during state elections in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013.

The districts that were recommended for first phase polls include Khunti, Gumla, Latehar, Simdega, West Singhbhum, Ranchi, Dumka, Giridhi, Palamu, Garhwa, Chatra, Lohardaga and Bokaro in Jharkhand; Bastar, Bijapur, Sukma, Dantewada, Kanker, Narayanpur, Kondagaon and Rajnandgaon in Chhattisgarh; Aurangabad, Gaya, Jamui, Muzaffarpur and Lakhisarai in Bihar and Malkangiri, Koraput, Nuapada and Bolangir in Odisha.

Along with the list of districts, the ministry has explained to the commission that if elections were held over different phases in Naxalite areas, the extremists could get breathing time to re-deploy their cadre and plan attacks.

The ministry argued that having elections in these Maoist strongholds in the first phase was a counter strategy since the government could ensure maximum deployment of security forces.

Over 1,000 paramilitary companies are deployed in disturbed areas and usually the ministry provides another 1,000 companies — or approximately 1.2 lakh personnel — for election duty across the country.

If deployment of forces is concentrated in the affected districts. the CPI (Maoist) may find simultaneous attacks difficult, the ministry is arguing.

However, sources clarified that a request from the home ministry did not necessarily mean that the commission would grant the request, given that it takes a pan-Indian view of the general elections.

The general elections are due to be completed by May.

The home ministry’s list did not include West Bengal’s West Midnapore. “West Midnapore is perhaps a bigger miracle than Andhra Pradesh as things have taken a turn for the better there,” said a home ministry source.

Security officials have been showering praise on the Mamata Banerjee government’s tact in “filling up the political vacuum” in Naxalite affected areas of the district.


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