The ongoing elections may be the first time that what was showing up as an LWE statistic is being played out on the ground: while the CPI-Maoist retains unparalleled reach, the splinter groups to which it has ceded ground are flexing their muscle.
Jharkhand has seen all eight most vulnerable ‘Category A’ districts voting without any deaths. The most serious incident came Thursday morning, when four CRPF personnel were injured in an attack in Bokaro.
Jharkhand in 2013 had the highest number of LWE-related incidents (383) as well as deaths (150) in 2013. And while the spotlight remains on the CPI-Maoist, the 20-odd splinter groups accounted for over 60 per cent of these incidents. In 2014, the People’s Liberation Front of India overtook the CPI-Maoist in the incidents pie, 36 per cent to 34.
Of the 150 deaths, 120 or 80 per cent were civilians, contrasting with 65 per cent in the rest of the country. The splinter groups have so far shied away from engaging security forces and are responsible for most of the 120 civilian deaths mostly because of their intimate involvement in the day-to-day running of the villages they are entrenched in.
The Maoists certainly retain the most widespread influence. The CPI-Maoist held village-level meetings and put up boycott posters in almost each Category A district. At Khunti’s Arki block, for example, campaigning for all parties was negligible. However, there were no reports of Maoist presence within Saranda forest, the organisation’s eastern headquarters till 2011. In the adjoining Porahat forest division, the Maoists managed to hold one boycott meeting within Gudri block and stuck posters.
The Maoists — rather, one of their senior leaders — came out in active support of one individual. Regional Committee member Nakul Yadav’s support to JVM(P)’s Chatra candidate Nilam Devi was reportedly because of familial ties and not of ideological ones. Devi, even otherwise putting up strong fight, eventually came to be known as a “Maoist” candidate in the adivasi villages of Latehar district, within Chatra.
In Chatra, the Tritiya Sammelan Prastuti Committee did not name a favourite. This was unlike the 2010 assembly elections, when Ganesh Ganjhu, brother of TSPC’s supreme commander Brajesh Ganjhu, contested as a JMM candidate. Lawalong, the centre of TSPC’s activities, had the presence of all party offices this time as opposed to 2010, when only the JMM flag flew.
With Ganesh apparently favouring the BJP this time — he denied this in a conversation with this newspaper, his supporters worked for the party. In Palamu, the TSPC reportedly supported an individual who was instrumental in the organisation’s formation.
The PLFI took a major decision when it attacked the police for the first time on March 25 in Khunti. They have been brazen during the election, reportedly campaigning for Jharkhand Party candidate Anosh Ekka. Driving through Murhu town — a PLFI stronghold — on the morning of elections, only Ekka’s flags and campaign office was visible. The PLFI has allegedly threatened AAP candidate Dayamani Barla’s supporters twice.