Raipur: Maoists went on a rampage in Chhattisgarh on Wednesday during the first phase of panchayat polls which have already seen around 50% of the candidates elected unopposed in rebel-dominated Bastar, officials said.
Rebels looted ballot boxes from around 30 booths in Sukma, Dantewada and Kanker in Bastar, considered the hotbed of left wing extremism in the country, the officials added.
Besides, rebels also fired at a polling party in Kanker district.
“No injury or causality was reported in the incident,” PTI quoted inspector general of police (intelligence wing) Deepanshu Kabra as saying.
The polls were held amidst tight security in view of a boycott call given by the outlawed CPI (Maoist).
According to state election commission sources, 12,524 panch, sarpanch and janpad panchayat members have been elected unopposed out of 24,611 posts in the seven districts of Bastar.
Last week, rebels had killed a sarpanch candidate in Dantewada district.
“The impact of Maoist terror can’t be denied and risk factor remains in areas having rebel presence,” state election commissioner PC Dalai said.
Dalai added that no polling staff was sent to places where candidates were elected unopposed.
Hit hard by a wave of surrender by cadres amidst sustained operations by security forces, Maoists have been attempting to regain lost ground by holding village meetings before the panchayat polls, sources said.
Police did not rule out the possibility of Maoist supporters contesting the polls.
“It is, however, not possible to distinguish who are Maoist sympathisers or supporters contesting the panchayat elections,” said RK Vij, the additional director general of police in-charge of anti-Maoist operations.
Former state election commissioner Sushil Trivedi said that since the rebels are only interested in economic gains, Maoists may have propped up candidates to “grab a lion’s share from funds earmarked for panchayats.”