maoists in Orissa may contest the forthcoming panchayat elections by proxy in the strongholds of Malkangiri and Gajpati districts. The elections will stretch from February to March.
There are reports that hectic preparations are on in Poplur, Elkanur and Tekguda in Malkangiri district, bordering Andhra Pradesh. The Maoists are convening chaupal meetings to motivate people to vote for their candidates. Their extra-judicial courts called praja courts are being used to canvass for 'Red' candidates. "Maoists are planning to put up proxy candidates but nobody knows how," says Nimei Sarkar, Congress mla from Malkangiri.
Sources say Maoists are confident of their candidates doing well in remote Mottu tehsil and Bhejingwada panchayat, Malkangiri, where they enjoy excellent rapport with resident tribals.The sarpanch of Tamasa panchayat, Malkangiri, said that the Maoists were well entrenched in Podia and Kalimela blocks and could win. These have also been the most violence-prone areas.
Sources in the police department fear the Maoists may rely on the fear factor to ensure the victory of their candidates in Malkangiri. "If Maoist-supported candidates win at all, they will do so for the fear they inspire among people. The tribals, who once used to back Maoists, are now disillusioned with their violent ways," said a senior police officer in Malkangiri.
In neighbouring Gajpati district, too, the Maoist tag spells fear. Sometime ago the Maoists raided the local jail in R Udaygiri town freeing all the prisoners and taking two officials hostage. "In fact, they are much better organised in Gajpati after the incident," says police.
The Maoists have been engaged in a see-saw battle with the Orissa government ever since a ban was clamped on cpi (Maoist) and its seven frontal organisations in June last year. While they have stepped up violence against the government, they appear keen to establish their hold over grassroots level institutions in their areas of domination.
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