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Leaders wary of rebel wrath
- Election campaign hit in Maoist-affected districts, contenders seek security

The Naxalite ambush on security personnel in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district, which claimed 16 lives on Tuesday, has sent shock waves not just through the forces but also politicians in eastern Bihar.

Fearing the designs of the rebels, who hold sway in parts of eastern Bihar, political leaders dare not move in remote areas of their constituencies even though it is poll season.

“We want the best security cover for campaigning in remote areas,” an MP from this region said on condition of anonymity.

The leader, who spends most of his time in Delhi or in Patna and hardly visits his constituency, said he would request the state government to increase his security cover to enable him to visit remote areas of his constituency, known for its rebel menace.

On October 23, 2013, the outlaws planned to kidnap the BJP MLA from Kotoria assembly seat in Banka, Sonelal Hembrom, from Simultala railway station on the Kiul-Asansol main section of Eastern Railways. Hembrom was going from Patna to Simultala by train on his way to his constituency when the police alerted him at Mokama station.

A panic-stricken Hembrom alighted at Mokama instead of Simultala. A month later, Jamui police arrested a hardcore rebel commander, Lalit. During interrogation, it emerged that some MLAs like Hembrom were under the Naxalite scanner and the rebels planned to kidnap them to force the authorities to release some of their comrades from jails. Hembrom’s security has been enhanced. Five armed police bodyguards protect him now.

Former Banka MP and JD(U) MLA from Belhar, Giridhari Yadav, reportedly avoids his native place at Lahavan in Jamui district because of the rebels. “We have to be very cautious whenever Yadav visits Belhar,” his aide said.

Former RJD MLA from Belhar, Ramdev Yadav, had to migrate from his native village, Dhanjorwa in Belhar block, to Deoghar. Earlier, in 2006, Naxalites killed his nephew Anil Yadav. Yadav has, several times, urged the state government for additional security.

Popular leader late Digvijoy Singh’s widow Putul Devi, who is contesting from Banka on a BJP ticket this time, makes her own arrangement when visiting the affected areas. “People of the region remember Dada (Digvijoy Singh) fondly, and yet we do not want to take any chances. We arrange for additional security whenever our MP is here,” said a source close to Putul Devi.

But MLAs from Munger, Lakhisarai and Jamui have stopped visiting the remote areas since long. Their constituents are clueless about them. “We don’t know our MLA because we have never seen him here,” is what many residents of remote villages in Surajgarah block of Lakhisarai district said.

BJP MLA from Surajgarh, Prem Ranjan Patel, was not available for comment but his sources admitted to the rebel fear. Some MLAs from the region visit only township areas. The JD(U) MP from Jamui, Bhudev Choudhary, hardly visits his constituency. A party worker said Choudhary visits Bhagalpur frequently.

Bhagalpur police have often prevented Pirpainty’s BJP MLA, Aman Paswan, from moving around in some villages bordering Sahibganj and Godda areas of neighbouring Jharkhand. Bhagalpur MP Shahnawaz Hussain uses two escort vehicles whenever visiting Pirpainty in Bhagalpur. He has raised the issue of Naxalite activity several times.

Bhagalpur range inspector general of police Jitendar Kumar said every police station in the sensitive areas has been instructed to make fool-proof arrangements for political leaders during campaigns in rural areas. “We’ve launched major operations against the rebels in their hideouts and our actions would be more vigorous once central paramilitary forces arrive,” he said.

A senior civil official in Bhagalpur said the administration has sought deployment of 110 companies of central paramilitary forces in Bhagalpur and Munger divisions (consisting of Bhagalpur, Banka, Munger, Jamui, Begusarai and Khagaria Lok Sabha seats). “We have not received any instructions yet from the chief election commission about specific security arrangement for leaders moving in remote areas, but local police in every district have been told to be careful about security in sensitive areas,” the officer said.