Koraput, India: Political candidates wary of unappreciative tribals, stay indoors, blame Maoist boycott call

The Times of India:  “Maoist fear keeps candidates indoors in Malkangiri” — February 2, 2012

KORAPUT: Electioneering is yet to pick up pace in Malkangiri district with Maoist fear preventing candidates from coming out of their houses in remote areas.

The fear is understandable as it comes in the backdrop of extremist posters and banners asking villagers to boycott the poll process in protest against the state government’s alleged apathy towards development of tribals. But the Red rebels have not issued any threats to candidates.

Sources said campaigning for the rural polls is yet to gain momentum in several Maoist-hit areas of Malkangiri, particularly Poplur, Kurmanur, Manyakonda, Pusuguda, Kalimela, Chitrakonda and Motu gram panchayats. The first phase polls are on February 11.

“Though we have filed nominations, we live under the constant fear of Maoists. We don’t want endanger our lives by campaigning in interior areas because the Red rebels have already given a poll boycott call. We are limiting our campaigning to safer areas of the district,” said a zilla parishad candidate.

Even no top leader of any political party has come to the district for campaigning so far. The Congress, BJD and BJP have left it to their local leaders to manage the show. “Though several leaders, including chief minister Naveen Patnaik, have started campaigning for their party, till now no prominent leader has toured Malkangiri,” a source at Malkangiri said.

Sources said though adequate security personnel have been deployed for the election process, it is not enough to instill confidence among the candidates given that the Maoists diktat rules half of the 108 gram panchayats in Malkangiri. The district has 15 zilla parishad seats.

Over 25,000 villagers of 151 villages that lie on the other side of Balimela reservoir in Kudumulgumma block, a Maoists hub, have threatened to boycott the panchayat poll alleging under development of their villages.

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