Ch'garh: Triangular contest in Dantewara

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Dantewara, Nov 9: A triangular contest is being witnessed in the naxalite-affected Dantewara assembly seat of Chhattisgarh from where sitting Congress legislator and Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Mahendra Karma is seeking re-election for the third time.

Mr Karma is facing tough fight from CPI candidate Manish Kunjam, while the presence of BJP nominee Bhairav Mandavi has made the contest triangular. The fight on this seat appeared to be getting divided between anti-naxalite 'Salwa Judum' supporters and its opponents.

With six days to go for polls, poll campaign was relatively low-key as compared to other areas. There are hardly any publicity vehicles, party flags, banners or cutouts to lend colour to the campaign.

Aspirants are stressing upon people-to-people contact but are not able to muster courage to go to inner areas.

In the wake of the Election Commission taking cognizance of a photograph published in an English daily showing Mr Karma allegedly bribing voters and registering of an FIR against him, the administration has become more alert.

The campaign, which was already lacklusture, has become more dull with election observers becoming more active.

Mr Karma, who has been provided 'Z plus' security cover, as he is on the hit list of naxals, has been undertaking campaign under the shadow of security officials. People residing here have been supporting him from several years but now appear to be angry with him.

According to a local journalist, Mr Karma was facing anger due to some activities of his close relatives, including his son. Besides, people feel that Mr Karma has not taken interest in development of this area. Mr Kunjam, who had earlier contested from Konta, was facing difficulties in poll campaign due to a call for boycott of polls issued by the naxalites. However, local people said his campaign was going on in inner areas.

The BJP has changed its candidate from the seat and fielded Mr Mandavi. People believe this was done to benefit someone.

The region had earlier witnessed fight between the Congress and the CPI. The BJP has got a foothold here due to Salawa Judum campaign. However, people feel it was not much concerned about development.

Besides, polarisation of votes due to the Salwa Judum campaign was unlikely to help the BJP much. A local government school teacher told UNI that polarisation would divide votes between the Congress and the CPI. Since Mr Karma was the main leader of the campaign, he would get benefit or loss out of the campaign.

Commenting upon cash-for-vote case involving Mr Karma, a local grocery shop owner said money and liquor had played an important role in elections here since years.

Despite the presence of large number of security forces, people even shy away from talking to media due to naxalite fear. In case of any interaction, they don't want their name to appear.

Mr Karma's supporters alleged that the CPI was hand in gloves with naxals. Hence, they were campaigning in inner areas. On the other hand, CPI national executive member Chitranjan Bakshi said those enjoying the benefit of power were not going in inside areas.

Polling centres had also been set up in relief camps. This correspondent witnessed cordon by security forces outside a relief camp. A person claimed that the camp shelters 350 voters.

More than 1.73 lakh electorate -- including 83,997 men and 89,531 women -- would exercise their franchise from this hyper-sensitive seat to decide fate of six candidates. No main leader from any prominent party had addressed election meetings here so far.


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