Maoist threat makes electioneering a low-key affair in Visakha Agency

Taking no chances:  TDP candidate for Araku Assembly segment Kidari Sravan Kumar undertaking campaign  amid tight security in Visakhapatnam Agency.

Taking no chances: TDP candidate for Araku Assembly segment Kidari Sravan Kumar undertaking campaign amid tight security in Visakhapatnam Agency.

At a time when the poll campaign is gathering steam across the State, the electioneering remains a low-key affair in Visakhapatnam Agency owing to Maoist threat.

A few weeks to go for the general elections and campaigning by the candidates in the fray from the constituencies the Agency areas is confined to roadside meetings.

Many of the candidates do not prefer to visit the interior areas due to Maoist threat. Apart from this, rough terrains makes it difficult for the candidates to reach out to the voters as it is a time consuming process. As the elections are scheduled to be held on April 11, the candidates are left with limited time to visit all the areas in their respective segments.

The situation this time is different from that of 2014 as Araku MLA Kidari Sarveswara Rao and former MLA S. Soma were killed at Livitiput village in Dumbriguda mandal near Araku.

A visit to some of the areas in Salur, Pedabayalu, Dumbriguda and Araku Assembly segments bordering Odisha, which are considered as the hotbed for Maoist activities, revealed that a majority of the candidates are keeping their tour programmes secret till the eleventh hour as part of a strategy to prevent untoward incidents.

Tour plans kept secret

“All the candidates have been advised not to disclose their tour details and they must inform the nearest police station in advance about their travel plan. Still, the candidates keep changing their plans till the last minute, giving us tense moments,” a police official on duty in the Maoist-hit area, said.

During the 2014 elections, two booths were captured in Busuputtu area and EVMs were damaged in Palakjeedi. Of the 5,000 sq. km of Agency area, 2,000 sq. km has been identified as vulnerable to Maoist activities.

‘Sensitive’ booths

In Araku parliamentary Constituency, 801 of the 2,035 booths have been identified as ‘sensitive’.

The candidates for both Lok Sabha and Assembly seats will be provided with security cover after the scrutiny of the nominations, depending on threat perceptions, the police officials said.

Late Sarveswara Rao’s son, Kidari Sravan Kumar, who is now holding the Tribal Welfare and Empowerment portfolio in the N. Chandrababu Naidu’s Cabinet, is contesting from Araku Assembly constituency and he has been provided security by Octopus commandos.

“Efforts are on to wean away people from the influence of Maoists. Improving the livelihood conditions in the tribal areas is my top priority,” Mr. Sravan Kumar. told The Hindu, while referring to the Left Wing Extremism in the Agency.

Jana Sena Party-backed CPI (M) candidate for Araku Assembly seat Killo Surendra said that he had visited all the tribal hamlets in the segment earlier, as part of his attempt to understand the pressing issues in the area. “I don’t need any security to meet my own man,” he said.

Admitting that some areas were under influence of Maoists, a senior politician of the Agency area said on condition of anonymity that due to fear of Maoists, they had restricted campaigning to hamlets located on the mainland and shandies (weekly marketplaces) which were thronged by scores of tribal people to meet their daily requirements.

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Printable version | May 16, 2022 12:51:15 am |