The presence of alleged naxalites in the electoral fray is apparently causing discomfiture to both the police and the civil administration in this tribal-dominated district.

There are at least two Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) candidates facing serious charges for indulging in naxalite activities and both are contesting the elections from behind bars.

The JMM has fielded Palas Gudia from Todpa and Mashi Charan Purti from Khunti (ST) constituencies respectively. While Gudia is imprisoned in the Gumla Jail, the latter is cooling his heels in the Chaibasa Jail.

The presence of these two candidates has made the police jittery particularly because they have also to bear the brunt of the attacks on their patrolling parties by other underground factions operating in the area.

The CPI (Maoist) blew up a police jeep killing one police man and injuring four others under the Tamar Assembly constituency on Wednesday.

Khunti SP Aseem Vikrant Minz said both JMM candidates are facing serious charges for their involvement in naxalite activities and violence and admitted that it had put the police in an awkward position.

His obvious discomfiture arises from the fact that naxalites have been wreaking havoc on the police, blowing up their jeeps in ambushes, attacking police pickets and stations and killing a number of personnel over the years.

Mr. Minz preferred to take a detached view saying that under the law, the undertrial naxalites were well within their rights to contest the elections.

The political ambitions of these naxalites has only given a new dimension to the electoral spectrum, already coloured by those facing other criminal charges including murder, embezzlement and corruption. The objective remains the same, that of gaining public support and cloaking themselves with legislative privileges.

This development is posing a number of questions relating to bringing to book those facing serious charges, the impact on the morale of the security forces, the sense of security among the people, and its impact on the naxalite movement itself.

Mr. Minz denied the existence of any liberated zone in the district, as defined by the naxalites, and said police action had helped build confidence in the people and that these raids and encounters had also demoralised the naxalites.

Khunti Deputy Commissioner Pooja Singhal Purwar admitted that the district was situated in a hot naxalite belt but said their presence in the electoral fray was neither a handicap nor an advantage.