NEW DELHI :
Naxalites attacked a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) election convoy in Dantewada district in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh on Tuesday, killing party leader Bhima Mandavi and four state police personnel.
The attack took place just two days before Bastar goes to polls in the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections and five days after four Border Security Force (BSF) personnel were killed in a bomb blast in Kanker district, which goes to polls in the second phase on 18 April.
Tuesday’s attack is a chilling reminder of the deadly 2013 attack, in which heavily-armed Naxalites ambushed a convoy of Congress workers, killing senior leaders, including Mahendra Karma, V.C. Shukla and state party chief Nandkumar Patel.
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) said Tuesday’s attack had taken place on a convoy of BJP Member of legislative Assembly (MLA) Mandavi from Dantewada, while he was returning from campaigning in the evening. The convoy was travelling between Kuakonta and Shyamgiri in Dantewada, according to a report by news agency PTI.
The Naxalites carried out an IED blast and followed this up by firing on the security personnel for half an hour. The CRPF said the escort vehicle bore the brunt of the IED blast. Security forces have been rushed to the area, police said.
Dantewada superintendent of police Abhishek Pallav said Mandavi had been advised by the state police against campaigning in the area.
“Strongly condemn the Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh. My tributes to the security personnel who were martyred. The sacrifices of these martyrs will not go in vain. Shri Bhima Mandavi was a dedicated karyakarta (worker) of the BJP. Diligent and courageous, he assiduously served the people of Chhattisgarh. His demise is deeply anguishing. Condolences to his family and supporter," Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.
Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel called an urgent security review meet.
Former Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh said, “I am in contact with central ministers and spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I will go to Dantewada and meet families of the deceased."
The attack was carried out by Naxals trained under the leadership of Basavraj, intelligence officials said. Basavraj is the new head of Naxal cadres in India. Late on Monday night, Naxalites in Bastar’s Kondagaon area also distributed leaflets asking villagers to boycott the upcoming elections. They also condemned the recent ban on Yasin Malik’s Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front.
Intelligence units have been warning the state police and the central paramilitary personnel about impending IED attacks by Naxalites. The Election Commission has called for a report on the attack.
The Bastar Lok Sabha constituency includes Naxalism-affected Dantewada, Bastar, Kondagaon, Dantewada, Bijapur, and Narayanpur districts. More than 80,000 personnel and drones have been deputed in and around the Bastar region for the elections.
While the EC has asked for a report on the incident from the state government, a senior EC official said, “CEO (chief electoral officer) Chhattisgarh has taken an immediate video conference of collectors and superintendents of police of the affected districts covering phase 1 and phase 2 in Chhattisgarh, and instructed them to take utmost precautions over the next few days since polling is there in phase 1 and phase 2."