"Gone are the days when naxalites held sway in their areas during elections. Now CRPF camps have been set up in interior areas in the affect-districts like Latehar, Lohardaga and Palamau districts," said former Jharkhand Assembly Speaker Inder Singh Namdhari.
In previous elections, he said, the Maoists' tactics had been to instill fear in the voters by "chopping off" fingers of the first voter in the queue in interiors areas to frighten rest of the people.
Recalling how Saryu area of Latehar district was once "lawless" and polling officials feared to go to such places, Namdhari cautioned that Maoists "may fish in troubled waters if they wish."
Former Union minister and senior Congress leader Subodh Kant Sahay summed up the left-wing extremists as "petty contractors" who give boycott slogans. But this time the security forces are there to deal with them, he said.
A total 81 seats are spread over 24 districts, 18 of the districts are officially announced naxal-affected while two more districts, Dumka and Pakur, have reported major rebel incidents like killings of Pakur SP Amarjit Balihar in Dumka and Sister Valsha in Pakur.
According to police headquarters as many as 19 naxal outfits are operating in Jharkhand, including the CPI (Maoist) and its splinter groups. RJD Jharkhand unit President Girinath Singh, who won four times from Garhwa, a naxal stronghold, said he had escaped Maoist attack during 2009 assembly electioneering.
"Five years ago I came under attack from naxalites while campaigning in Garhwa. I escaped by the grace of the God. Things have changed now with security personnel dominating naxal areas," Singh said.
Observing that the Election Commission's decision to hold polls in five phases is to deploy adequate forces to conduct free and fair elections even in naxal-affected areas, BJP national Vice-President Raghuvar Das said earlier naxalites use to trigger incidents on polling day to scare the people from coming out of houses or announce poll boycott in their areas.
Corroborating the view of Das, BJP MP and former IPS officer Vishnu Dayal Ram, who was the state police chief during 2009 polls, said the 2009 elections were also held in five phases and naxalites carried out violent incidents in Giridih, Palamau and Latehar districts to disrupt polls.
"They influence the elections in lieu of money, particularly on the borders of Bihar. Security deployment this time may decrease their threat," Ram added.
He, however, cautioned that they would try to disturb the polls because they don't believe in the democratic process and also to extract money at lower levels. Jharkhand Pradesh Congress Committee president Sukhdeo Bhagat said it is due to Maoists and other naxal groups' threat that the EC announced five-phase elections.
"Simdega, Gumla, Palamau and Lohardaga districts are badly hit by naxal groups, and they used to influence voting behaviour, and residents listened to them for fear as they are the people who live there," Bhagat said.
"Last time, news of 'Operation Green Hunt' went against the Congress as naxalites threatened the voters in interior areas not to vote for us," Bhagat, a former MLA from Lohardaga, claimed.
Commenting on naxalism in Jharkhand, former Director General of Police R R Prasad said, "What would you term it when a pistol wielding person is standing behind you? Naxalites had influenced the voting behaviour pattern in certain areas of this belt since undivided Bihar."
"They used to help particular candidates. This time the situation may be better following extensive deployment of forces, which will help the democratic process," he said.