India cannot afford to lose the battle against Maoists, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley said in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday and alleged that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government had not taken the threat seriously in its last tenure.

“This battle the country cannot lose,” Mr. Jaitley said during a debate on the April 6 massacre of 74 security men in Chhattisgarh. “This battle (needs) to go on.”

Terming the Maoist threat as alarming, the BJP leader said the entire opposition was backing the government in its campaign against the Maoists. “The country wants to speak in one language... but we do not need a divided government.”

While social and economic development in the Maoist infected areas needs to be taken care of, he said, the military action by Left extremists needed to be tackled though “strong security measures”.

Quoting government statistics, Mr. Jaitley said 220 districts in the country faced the Maoist problem; of these, 90 districts had “effective Maoist presence”. He said: “The situation is alarming.”

“The first five years of the UPA, in fact, was wasted without releasing the seriousness of the issue,” he said, but added quickly that there “some sign of hope in the last one year.”

‘Divided’ treasury bench

Mr. Jaitley attacked the government saying while it was extending its support in the fight against Naxals, the "divided" treasury benches and Congress had been pulling down Home Minister P Chidamabaram.

Mr. Jaitley said Mr. Chidamabaram's task has been made difficult by senior Congress leaders like Digvijay Singh.

"We do not need a divided government", Mr. Jaitley said adding, "What we don't need is a government which tries to pull down its Home Minister."

Mr. Singh, AICC General Secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh, had in a newspaper article questioned Mr. Chidambaram's handling of the Maoist menace as a mere law and order problem and accused him of "intellectual arrogance".

Amid protests from the Congress, Mr. Jaitley also said that there were people in the treasury benches who are "half-Maoists". He was apparently referring to the statement of Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee who had said there were "no Maoists in Lalgarh" and blamed CPI(M) for violence in the area.

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