Kolkata: Plagued by lack of leadership, the banned CPI (Maoist) has began a whispering campaign against the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal in a bid to regain its lost ground in the 'Junglemahal' region.
The Junglemahal districts of Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore, which have nearly 40 seats, will go to polls on 4 April and 11 April. Of these 40 seats, Maoists used to have a strong presence in near about 30 seats.
"The Maoists have been trying to regroup for past two years, especially near the areas along the Jharkhand and Odisha borders. But they have not been that successful. They don't have the same clout they had during 2010-11. They have virtually turned into a non-entity," a senior intelligence officer told PTI.
"But near the bordering areas of Jharkhand and Odisha, in certain pockets they are propagating against the TMC government and have engaged in a whispering campaign," the official added.
The views were echoed by senior officials of CRPF who said at times they get reports of Maoists engaging in whispering campaign.
"They don't have the same strength that they used to have earlier but at times we get reports from our informers that in Jharkand, Odisha border the Maoists are engaging in whispering campaigns against state government and central government," a senior CRPF officer said.
Contrary to their tradition of boycotting polls and the democratic structure, Maoists had called for ousting the 34-year Left Front regime in the Junglemahal districts before the 2011 assembly elections.
The PCAPA, the frontal organisation of the Maoists, had called for defeating the Left Front candidates, which in turn had helped the Trinamool Congress in most of the 40 seats spread across the Junglemahal districts. As a result TMC and Congress combine had emerged victorious in 25 seats out of 40.
But in the past five years a lot of developments took place. And the death of Kishenji in a police encounter during the TMC regime has broken the backbone of the Maoist movement in Junglemahal.
The banned CPI (Maoist) in its review report last year had said it committed "mistakes" during the Lalgarh movement by killing people and removing their bodies covertly and added that it had wrongly believed that Trinamool Congress would withdraw joint forces from Junglemahal and release all political prisoners after coming to power in the state.
Police and intelligence officials, who have been following Maoist movement closely, feel that the developmental work by the government has done wonders in alienating the Maoists.
"Lack of leadership, developmental work, alienation from the masses have adversely impacted the entire Maoist network in the area. They neither have that mass base nor cadre base to make their presence felt. They won't be able to call the shots unlike 2010-11," said a senior official of central police force who have been looking after the anti-Maoist operation for past several years.
The TMC government's ability to reign in the Maoist movement in Junglemahal, which has witnessed zero violence since 2012, is mostly credited to its various developmental schemes for the people of the poverty-stricken region which includes availability of rice at Rs 2 per kg to every household.
Development in terms of infrastructure such as roads, schools, mid day meals has also helped in alienating the ultra Left organisation.
Senior TMC leader and MP Suvendu Adhikari, who has been at the forefront in fighting the Maoists since 2011, said the developmental work ushered by the Mamata Banerjee government has changed the political topography of the area.
"The Maoists thrive by exploiting the poverty and lack of development. But these two things have been taken care of by our government. So if the people have food to eat and clothes to wear then why would they associate themselves with Maoists? And people want peace, they don't want violence and lawless situation," Adhikari told PTI.
The area, which recorded 350 killings in 2010-11, witnessed not even one since 2012.
The TMC leader on the other hand termed the review report of the Maoists as completely misleading.
"The Maoists have been completely isolated by our government so they are trying to speak against our government and it is a Maoist tradition to speak against the party which is in power. But their whispering campaign won't have an impact," he claimed.
Asked about Maoists engaging in whispering campaign, CPI(M) Politburo member and Left Front Chairman Biman Bose said, "I am not aware of it, I have to ask my district leaders. The Maoists had helped the TMC in 2009 and 2011. They had killed so many of our cadres. But later on problems started between them. But if someone on the basis of experience of his life comes to any kind decision or observation then it is their matter."
Senior Congress leader and a veteran MLA from Junglemahal Manas Bhunia said, "In politics lot of things happen. But only election results will say whether Maoists have any impact on the polls or not," Bhunia said.