Jharkhand panchayat polls: 3,000 backed by Maoists win unopposed

Maoists are forcing rival candidates to withdraw from the fray to help their relatives and friends win posts.

Ranchi: The Maoists might not believe in the democratic process but close to 3,000 candidates supported by them - many of them their wives or kin - have been elected unopposed in the ongoing Jharkhand panchayat polls, sources said.

Heartening though this might be for the Maoists, the rebels have been caught in an unenviable position. The polls have exposed their double-speak. On one hand they have called for a boycott of the polls and on the other hand their own relatives are contesting the elections. According to police sources, the rebels are forcing rival candidates to withdraw from the fray to help their relatives and friends win posts.

Take the example of Manju Devi, wife of jailed zonal commander Kuldeep Ganju. She is fighting for the panchayat chief`s post at Hurnali of Palamau district. In the same district, Raj Kumari is contesting for the panchayat chief`s post from Ichak. She is the wife of Dilchand Ganju, commander of Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC).

There are also examples of relatives, particularly wives, of the Left-wing ultras being elected unopposed in the current panchayat polls. In Lawalong block of Chatra district, Mamta Devi, Neelam Devi Hedum, Ramkali Devi and others have been elected panchayat chiefs unopposed. All of them are married to Maoist guerrillas.

Due to Maoist threat, more than 3,000 candidates have been elected unopposed for different posts in the state. According to police sources, majority of these candidates have the support of the rebels.

Even political parties do not have any objection over this trend. "The motive behind panchayat polls is to strengthen the grass-root level democracy. We should appreciate if Maoists are ready to join the mainstream of the society by reposing faith in the democratic system," Ramesh Puskar, a Bharatiya Janata Party leader, said.

Jharkhand is holding its first panchayat polls after it was carved from Bihar in 2000. The five-phase panchayat polls began Nov 27.

The last panchayat polls took place in 1979 when Jharkhand was part of Bihar. The polls were delayed in Jharkhand due to legal battle over reservations for tribal people in the scheduled areas, notified tribal areas.