The hustle and bustle of campaign was missing in the rebel-hit pockets of eastern Bihar districts on Thursday because of a bandh called by the Maoists.
Elections in Jamui and Munger are scheduled for April 10 and 17, respectively, and campaigning is on in full swing. The bandh, however, not only threw residents’ life out of gear but also put a spanner in the campaign trail of the candidates.
Uday Narayan Chaudhary (JD-U) and Chirag Paswan (LJP-BJP) — candidates for the Jamui Lok Sabha seat — were among the leaders who chose to visit places in the districts not affected by the Maoist problem.
Chaudhary, scheduled to visit Chakai on Thursday, went towards Tarapur in Munger district to campaign. Although Tarapur is not considered a Naxalite-hit zone, the Speaker’s security was tightened. The LJP-BJP candidate, Chirag Paswan, also rescheduled his programme and went to Sheikhpura instead of Khaira that he was scheduled to visit.
The Telegraph tried contacting the leaders and got through to their campaign officers, who refused to respond to questions on changes in the leaders’ itinerary.
In Munger, too, where campaigning has started gaining momentum, the leaders avoided venturing out to the rural parts. The BJP-LJP candidate for Munger, Bina Devi, and the RJD’s Pragati Mehta changed their schedules in view of the Maoist bandh.
Ramdev Yadav, a resident of Sono block in Jamui, echoed people in the two districts when he said: “These days, we have to endure campaign vehicles, fitted with loudspeakers, going through our villages from early morning to the late evening. But today (Thursday) was different. Nobody came here.”
Deputy inspector-general of police, Munger, Sudhansu Kumar claimed that the bandh — called by the Maoists in protest against a rival group allegedly killing their members in Jharkhand — was unsuccessful because of the security arrangements put in place and long-range patrolling being conducted in the rural parts of the districts.
The scene in the towns told a different story though.
Business establishments remained closed in most places like Jamui’s Simultala, Chakai, Sono, Charkapathar and Khaira areas apart from Haveli Kharagpur, Dharhara and Sambhuganj (Munger) and Katoria and Chandan (Banka). The bandh’s impact was also felt in rural segments of Lakhisarai district.
In Jhajha township (Jamui), markets and banks were closed. A BJP worker in Jhajha said: “The police urged the traders to open their establishments but all of them stayed away for fear of the Maoists. We closed our party office too and switched off the loudspeakers.”
Motihari police on Thursday unearthed an improvised explosive device (IED) at Bara Bisunpur village allegedly planted by the Maoists during the Bihar bandh call. The police and CRPF personnel jointly conducted the raid.