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Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong fears Green Hunt backlash

Ranchi, Oct. 19: Congress leaders in the state are jittery over the Centre’s proposed offensive against Naxalites, as partymen feel that the step might be “counterproductive” when Jharkhand is getting ready for elections.

“We do not want to count bodies when we go into elections,” said a senior Congress leader, echoing the sentiments of his colleagues who believed they would have to face a volley of questions on the justification of the Union home ministry’s move during campaigning, especially in rural areas.

The Union government has already asked the state to withdraw petty forest cases pending against tribals in a bid to win over their confidence ahead of the offensive, christened Operation Green Hunt, for which paramilitary battalions comprising BSF, CRPF and ITBP were scheduled to come in by October 25.

State Congress president Pradeep Balmuchu, who was in New Delhi today, said he would convey the apprehensions over the anti-Naxalite operations to the high command.

Union minister for food processing Subodh Kant Sahay said the issue should be discussed within the party. “When there is an elected government one can vent one’s anger against the police through MLAs and gram pradhans,” he said, hinting that the party would become the target of political criticism.

The BJP grabbed the opportunity today when its party president Rajnath Singh addressed a gathering of over 5,000 at the JMM bastion of Godda and held the Congress responsible for plundering the wealth of Jharkhand.

“The Congress has betrayed you, played with your sentiments and encouraged corruption,” he said with state party chief Raghubar Das and former chief minister Arjun Munda beside him.

A senior bureaucrat said that Chidambaram believed he could implement his plan against Maoists in Jharkhand since the state was under President’s rule.

“He will not have such free hand in other Maoist-hit states like Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Bengal and Bihar — all ruled by non-Congress governments,” he added.

The purpose of security forces during elections was to dominate areas and drive out Naxalites, he said. But during the offensive, the men in khaki will target rebels.

However, the Congress’s Radha Krishna Kishore, who is from Naxalite-affected Palamau, did not see such a negative fallout. “The November operation would have a positive impact during elections in constituencies where people are tired with extremists,” he added.

“But the operation should be conducted carefully so that innocent civilians are not harassed,” Kishore, a former JD(U) MLA, said.

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