Dantewada (Chhattisgarh), April 9: BJP’s lone legislator from Chhattisgarh’s Maoist-affected Bastar region, Bhima Mandavi, was killed along with four policemen on Tuesday evening as Maoists carried out a deadly attack on his convoy in a forested patch in Dantewada district.
The brutal killing of India’s ruling party’s MLA created outrage in Chhattisgarh as Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel cancelled his poll campaign and chaired a high-level meeting in Raipur to assess the law and order situation.
Baghel, who is facing flak for allegedly adopting a soft approach towards Maoists, said he was “deeply disturbed” by the killings, but also defended his government’s measures.
Dantewada is part of Bastar Lok Sabha seat that goes to the polls in the first phase on Thursday, April 11. Bastar is considered the Bharatiya Janata Party’s bastion as the party has been winning the seat since 1999 with massive margins.
The Election Commission said that voting in the state would go on as per schedule during the first, second and third phase of the seven-phase Lok Sabha elections.
Police said that the attack – the second one in April after a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) trooper was killed on April 5 and another injured in a gun battle with the Maoists in the state’s Dhamtari district — was “meticulously-planned”.
“It was a meticulously-planned attack, Maoists specifically targeted BJP MLA’s vehicle when he was rushing to Nakulnar to address a public meeting in favour of the BJP candidate from Bastar seat Baidu Ram Kashyap in closing minutes of poll campaigning,” Dantewada police chief Abhishek Pallav told reporters at the blast site.
Pallav also said that Mandavi was strongly advised not to rush to Nakulnar without full-proof security cover, but he ignored the warnings.
He added that Mandavi’s driver and three PSOs were also killed in the blast that tossed the 40-year-old BJP leader’s vehicle several feet up in the air before it landed and broke into pieces. The body parts of all the deceased were found scattered at the attack site.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the killing and termed Mandavi a dedicated party worker.
“Shri Bhima Mandavi was a dedicated Karyakarta of the BJP. Diligent and courageous, he assiduously served the people of Chhattisgarh. Condolences to his family and supporters. Om Shanti,” Modi tweeted.
In another tweet, Modi said: “Strongly condemn the Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh. My tributes to the security personnel who were martyred. The sacrifices of these martyrs will not go in vain.”
BJP President Amit Shah asserted that “such act of cowardice” will not deter them from fighting the ultra-Left insurgents.
“Anguished to learn about the killing of BJP MLA Bhima Mandavi and five others in a naxal (Maoist) attack in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada. Such act of cowardice can not deter BJP from its commitment to fight naxalism,” he said in a tweet.
The state unit of the BJP also reacted angrily to the killing and alleged that state’s new Congress regime has a nexus with the Maoists.
BJP national Vice President and former Chief Minister Raman Singh expressed shock over death of his party MLA and alleged that the Maoists were freely roaming in Bastar under the new Congress government.
“It’s a failure of state government, I see a big political conspiracy in the killing because Mandavi was the lone BJP MLA from Bastar… situation is very pathetic in Bastar during Congress regime,” Singh told reporters in Raipur.
Expressing his anguish over the deaths, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, in a tweet, extended “my deepest condolences to their bereaved families”. He also said that he spoke to Chief Minister Baghel who apprised him of the ground situation in Dantewada after the blast.
Baghel, in a series of tweets, said: “I am deeply disturbed by killing of one of my MLA colleagues, I don’t have words to express my grief, it’s definitely a major attack on democracy.”
“My government is consistently working to win people’s confidence and Naxals felt upset about that and this brutal attack is basically the result of their frustration.”
The Election Commission said that as polling in the state’s Maoist-affected districts is scheduled during the first and second phase on April 11 and 18, all measures would be taken till polling is concluded in these two phases.
“Chief Electoral Officer of Chhattisgarh took an immediate video conference of collectors and other poll staff of the affected districts covering phase 1 and phase 2 in Chhattisgarh, and instructed them to take all precautions over the next few days till the polling is complete,” an EC official said.