Millennium Post

Guns and BALLOTS

Amid news of land mine blasts and gun battles, Naxal-hit regions of the country are successfully sending a message of hope by casting their vote. People from these areas are defying threats by ‘red rebels’ to register a record poll percentage, clearly indicating their faith in the democratic system of the country.

 In the third phase of the ensuing Lok Sabha elections on 10 April, voters defied the Naxal’s call to boycott elections  and proceeded to give thumping support to democracy with a record 63 per cent poll turnout in the 12 worst Naxal-affected seats, which was around nine per cent higher than 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Even in Bastar, which had a minimum poll percentage of 56.50 per cent, was much higher than 47.33 per cent recorded in 2009. The poll percentage in almost all Naxal-hit Lok Sabha seats has emerged higher than the previous general election. The poll body is also very optimistic about higher turnout of voters in remaining Lok Sabha seats. Also, fuelling their optimism are the seat-wise voter turnouts for 10 April polls in 12 affected constituencies, which ranged between 51 per cent and 78 per cent. These numbers far surpassed the 38.12-77 per cent poll percentages recorded in the 2009 general elections. Odisha recorded the highest turnouts at 74 per cent in Kalahandi, 75.80 per cent in Koraput, 76 per cent in Bolangir and 78 per cent in Nabrangpur (Malkangiri). The biggest jump in voter turnout over the 2009 polls was in Nabrangpur (from 64 per cent to 78 per cent); Jamui in Bihar (38.12 per cent to 52 per cent); and Palamu in Jharkhand (45.94 per cent to 59.39 per cent). Even in Bastar, poll percentage showed a marked improvement from 47.33 per cent polling in 2009 to 56.40 per cent. However, this is less than the turnout seen in the November 2013 assembly polls. Gadchiroli-Chimur too impressed with 69.65 per cent turnout, as against 65.21 per cent in 2009. ?In the sixth phase of polling on 24 April, Naxal-hit areas recorded a high poll percentage, though a returning poll party was attacked, which killed seven officials. 

 Certainly, the peace requires security to prevail. The election commission had to deploy huge security forces to monitor Naxal- hit areas with helicopters. The poll body also had to arrange helicopters to ferry poll parties to avoid land mine attacks. Despite these measures, seven members of a polling team and five Central Reserve Police Force personnel were among 14 killed as Naxals struck twice on 12 April, within an hour, blowing up a bus and an ambulance in Bijapur and Bastar districts of Chhattisgarh. The election commission had to shift over 167 polling stations to safe areas from extreme Naxal-affected areas. However, all in all, polling in Naxal-affected states- Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh, Maharashtra and Odisa was peaceful.

 ‘Naxalism is an issue caused by socio-economic problems, bad governance, exploitation of indigenous people and resources. You will have to address this. You can’t take stick and start beating  up people and say tomorrow I will finish Naxalism,’ said former chief of army staff General VK Singh.

‘People’s hearts need to be won. They must have confidence in the way they are being governed,’ added Singh. The polling percentage was quite encouraging in the fifth phase also when highly Naxal-affected Bastar, Rajnandgaon and Kanker regions in Chhattisgarh recorded a 63.44 per cent turnout. The poll percentage in Khunti and West Singhbhum, Giridih, Ranchi and Simdega in Jharkhand, Munger in Bihar were also invariably higher than previous Lok Sabha polls.

‘The reason behind Naxalism is exploitation by government machinery- police, forest department officers, contractors and government officers. The only solution to Naxalism is to end their exploitation,’ said Prashant Bhushan.

‘Only Aam Aadmi Party has the vision to solve their problems’, he added. The leaders also blamed the Congress government at the center for its failure to solve the Naxal issue and only relying on armed forces to curb the menace. As political pundits are predicting change at the Centre, it will be pertinent to see how the new government in Delhi handles the issue. Will they be able to reach out to these original natives of Indian sub-continent or will their speeches end after elections are over?
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