Hyderabad: The Maoist threat is quite categorical: postpone the Telangana Assembly elections to February or face violent disruption of the poll process if the Election Commission goes ahead with its decision to have a one-day state-wide voting on 7 December.
A four-page communique from the Maoists sent to the Bhupalpally Tahsildar Office has demanded that the elections be held in February to enable around 30 lakh young people to become eligible to vote. The Maoists have even laid out a detailed schedule for the Election Comission to follow: notification on 12 January, candidate nominations to close on 22 January, voting on 14 February and counting on 19 February.
The Maoist communique argues that this will enable lakhs of Intermediate, Degree, PG, B Tech, M Tech, B Ed, and TTC students to enroll themselves in the voters' list between 1 and 14 January, 2019, especially as the present electoral rolls do not include many unemployed youth. Maoists assure no violence if the elections are held as per their proposed schedules and plenty of it if their demand is ignored.
Surprisingly, Congress leader Marri Shashidhar Reddy, who filed a petition in Telangana High Court questioning the truncated revision of electoral rolls, agrees with the Maoist demand for poll postponement. “I am not sure about 30 lakh new voters,” he said, adding, “But certainly, lakhs of youth will become voters if elections are held in February or March. Denying voting right to youths will distance them from democratic process.”
The four-page poster/communique apart, Jayashankar Bhupalpally village and some others — particularly on the border with Chhattisgarh — are witnessing a rash of posters and banners urging villagers to boycott the December polls. Though this is not the first time Maoists have put up such posters before an election, fear is beginning to grip the villagers after a “landmine” was found near a culvert under one such banner. The police, while clarifying that the ‘landmine’ was a dummy without explosives or detonators, are nevertheless on high alert, conducting combing operations in the region.
There are 80 high sensitive polling booths in two Assembly constituencies — Mulugu and Bhupalpally in Jayashankar Bhupalpally district. "We are taking all measures to create awareness among the voters. There was a similar situation during the last elections but the polling was 78.46 percent. I do not think these posters will have any impact on the voters,’’ says Jayashankar Bhupalpally district collector V Venkateswarlu.
Local politicians and candidates of all parties in areas like Jayashankar Bhupalpally, Peddapalli, Bhadrachalam, Kothagudem, Chennur, Manthani and Machiryala, which have a history of Maoist presence and activity, are a worried lot unlike in the past when such posters were largely ignored by all and had little impact on the electoral process.
Especially after the recent killing of a Telugu Desam Party MLA K Sarveshwara Rao and former MLA S Soma in Tottangi village in Araku Assembly constituency in Visakhapatnam district of neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. Though some, like Putta Madhukar, Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) candidate from Manthani, put up a brave face, saying, “The call to boycott elections has no relevance in democracy."
This view was echoed by Professor G Haragopal, activist and educationist, who said, “There are no instances of boycotting elections, even in tribal areas where Maoists have some influence. Voters in these areas might not come to the polling stations fearing violence but they never boycotted the elections.” In fact, Professor Haragopal says that the Maoists boycott call makes it easy for political parties. “These parties have created an impression that those who do not vote are considered to be dead,” he said. Also, as a boycott will not stop the election process, “the common man considers participating in elections as a responsibility."
Political analyst and writer Telakapalli Ravi, criticising the Maoist boycott call, said that “many leaders with Maoist background are playing a key role in the Telangana government”. He added that Maoists in Telangana are losing their cadre. “For example, Gaddar is expected to contest.”
No one compares the situation in Telangana to that in Bastar. But observers do point out that candidates are being prevented from entering villagers, not due to any Maoist boycott call, but because of their own failure to fulfill their promises to voters. Money does influence voting, with all parties distributing money before polling day. The general view is that voters take money from all and end up pushing the NOTA option.
“It is true that Maoists have some influence in rural areas, especially in tribal villages. They have put up banners and posters asking the authorities to postpone the elections and appealing to voters to boycott the elections. However, there will not be much impact of these posters and banners on the voters,’’ says Bonala Surendrachari from Bhupalpally village.
While the Maoists, despite putting up boycott posters, have rarely reacted violently against voters in the past, authorities are not taking any chances. Police has increased security for candidates and asked political leaders not to venture into these areas without prior intimation. “We have noticed banners and posters near Venkatapuram mandal,” said Kumar Bhandari, sub-inspector, Venkatapuram. “Combing operations are on for the last three months. We have not taken any extra security measures because of the recent posters and banners put up by Maoists. There were no Maoist activities in these areas till recently.”
Authors are members of 101Reporters.com
Updated Date: Nov 14, 2018 09:56 AM