Maoist threat looms large on panchayat polls

Bhubaneswar: The death of nine policemen in a landmine blast in Sunki ghat of Koraput district two days back, and the brutal killing of the husband of a ward member aspirant in Malkangiri district on Friday, have put the State police on tenterhooks, which is busy for a free and fair panchayat poll in Odisha. Though senior police officials are reluctant to share more information about the Sunki ghat incident, it is believed to be the fallout of the extremists’ call to boycott panchayat poll in their strongholds.

If sources are to be believed, investigating officials strongly suspect the hands of Maoists in the Hirakhand train mishap near Kuneru last month which took 39 lives and left many injured.

The police however said that they have intensified combing operation in the Maoist-hit regions of the State to thwart any further attempt by the ultras.

“We have heightened the anti-Maoist operation in sensitive areas. Besides, we too have sensitised people about such incidents,” said Malkangiri SP Mitrabhanu Mohapatra.

Districts like Koraput, Kandhamal and Rayagada which have recently witnessed Red posters warning people to stay away from the ensuing poll have been put on high alert after the ambush. In Rayagada, in view of the past incidents, police have been keeping a strict vigil in sensitive areas like Kalyansinghpur, Bissamcuttack, Munigdua, Kashipur and Rayagada blocks.

Sources said the police force and the intelligence wing have been kept on alert to combat the threat of the Maoists in Kalahandi district after posters were found in many places of the district to boycott polls.

“In co-ordination with the district administration, we will ensure a free and fair poll in the district. All arrangements have been made in this regard and the voters will exercise their franchise peacefully,” said Bolangir Collector Ashis Thakre.

“The security of candidates, polling personnel and polling booths will be taken care of. Special patrolling will be carried out in the sensitive and hyper-sensitive areas,” he said.