The police and politicians in Andhra Pradesh may dismiss the Maoist threat to elections in the undivided State, but a sense of fear and insecurity permeates the constituencies bordering Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Odisha.
Though the Maoists have suffered a setback in north Telangana, the red brigade still calls the shots in the border areas of Khammam, agency areas of Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and East Godavari.
Adilabad, Karimnagar, Warangal, Khammam, Visakhapatnam rural and Vizianagaram, on the radar of law-enforcement agencies, have 14 Assembly constituencies. They may not be a Maoist stronghold as they used to be a decade ago, but heavily armed squads keep darting across the border to strike and scoot before the police move in.
Despite the claims of the law-enforcement agencies that they are prepared to take on the Maoists and ensure peaceful elections, tension has been escalating with the rebels issuing a call for poll boycott.
“It is true there is some concern, but the situation is not out of control. There could be stray instances of arson or attacks, but they [Maoists] do not have cadres to extend logistical support. They fear getting hit if they venture into our area,” says a senior police officer coordinating anti-extremist operations.
“There will be some tension in the border areas,” says D. Sreedhar Babu, a former Minister in the fray in the Manthani constituency of Karimnagar district.
The completion of polling in Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra on April 10 is a cause of concern and comfort for the police. The Telangana region will go to polls on April 30 and Seemandhra on May 7, providing ample time for movement of central forces into the border areas. But the Maoists also benefit from the time to regroup themselves in the interregnum, a police officer says.
Though the rebels received a severe drubbing in relentless attacks by the police on the top cadres of the rebel party, they have never ceased their efforts to re-establish their Telangana base.
With the bifurcation of the State, the Maoists have intensified efforts to regroup themselves. The North Telangana special zonal committee, which was trying to revive the rebel movement in Adilabad, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Warangal and Khammam districts, has been scrapped and in its place a Telangana State committee has been formed, bringing the rest of the districts into its fold. The killing of nine important leaders of the Karimnagar-Khammam-Warangal divisional committee in the Bastar forests last year was a stunning blow dealt by the police to the Maoists.
But the police estimate that more than 120 armed cadres still form part of the new committee, led by Pulluri Prasada Rao, alias Chandranna. Similarly, the Andhra-Orissa border special zonal committee operates in the agency areas of Visakhapatnam Rural, Vizianagaram and East Godavari.
The Telangana State committee members are Bandi Prakash (DCS of Adilabad), Bade Chokka Rao (secretary of KKW divisional committee) and Yeruva Shivareddy (DCS of Khammam), the police believe.