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A chunk of the top leadership of Chhattisgarh Congress had been eliminated in a Maoist ambush with only months left for the 2013 Assembly elections.
The Raman Singh-led BJP government, which had had a near smooth second term until then, was suddenly staring at a severe political crisis.
However, Singh and his team, slot online through skillful handling of the situation, not only averted the crisis but also scraped a narrow win in the polls.
Battle: The Maoist attack on Congress leaders in Bastar was a big setback for Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh
Terror: The Maoist attack shook the leaders into action
As many as 27 people, including veteran Congress leader V.C.
Shukla, PCC chief Nand Kumar Patel and tribal leader Mahendra Karma, were killed in Bastar on May 25 in an attack that some experts called ’26/11 moment’ for the state.
Stunned, the opposition Congress lashed out at the state government, accusing it of failing to provide adequate security to the party’s parivartan yatra in the Maoist-dominated Bastar region. Many felt the situation then was threatening the very survival of the BJP government as the entire state was in shock over the gory attack.
“In terms of political impact the May 25 Maoist attack was as big an incident for Chhattisgarh as 26/11 terror attack for Mumbai and India,” says Anirudh Sharma, a political expert.
For two days after the incident the state government was reluctant to speak to the media. Even a section of bureaucracy strongly suggested that the government should lie low and allow the situation to pass over.
State BJP leaders agreed. But Aman Kumar Singh, the then secretary (now principal secretary) to the chief minister, vehemently argued in a closed-door meeting with Raman Singh that the government’s unwillingness to face the media would do irreparable damage to its image.
The CM and his close aides (officials) toiled day and night to defend the government. A day after the attack, Singh held a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi at Raj Bhawan, where Chief Secretary Sunil Kumar defended the state government.
“It appears to be miscalculation of the situation and risk factor by the police,” the chief secretary opined during the course of the meeting and narrated the course of action.
Aman Kumar Singh, along with the chief secretary, convinced the CM that the media must be apprised of the government’s views.
The CM was briefed through simulation on what to communicate with the media.
After that Raman Singh went ahead with the plan to admit that there were security lapses, though he was a bit “uncertain” about its fallout.
‘But with so many Congress leaders killed, how anyone can say there was no security lapse’, was the belief instilled in him by his administrative advisers.
The CM also pledged before the media to ensure there was no delay in getting the report from the judicial commission.
He simultaneously welcomed the investigation by the National Investigation Agency into the deadly attack.
The press meet continued for two hours. The next morning the media narrative was changed.
BJP spokespersons, too, got the line to follow: “Governance is not just about populism but showing guts for tough actions and candid admission.”
This strategy of admitting the lapse effectively gelled with the image of the chief minister.
Ironically, on June 5, during the chief ministers’ conference on internal security in Delhi, three top political leaders – P.
Chidambaram, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi – who were known to nurture diametrically opposite views on several issues were seen appreciating Raman Singh after the latter’s opening speech.
By Press Trust of India
Nine Naxals, two of them carrying rewards on their head, were arrested during a search operation in Chhattisgarh’s Maoist-hit Narayanpur district.
The cadres were nabbed from a forest in Badenghol-Kaushapara village when they were trying to hide late on Saturday, Narayanpur additional superintendent of police O.P. Sharma said on Sunday.
A joint party of the Chhattisgarh Armed Force (CAF) and a team of local police was on an area domination operation on Saturday in the Jhara forests, located around 400km from the state capital, Raipur.
On getting a tip-off about the presence of ultras in large number near Kaushalpara village forests, the security personnel took positions and encircled them, he said.
Those arrested were identified as – Sarju Korram, Jairam Salaam, Mangtu Korram, Durri Salaam, Ratu Korram, Sudren Salaam and three wanted rebels – Lakhan Potai, Beersingh Korram and Baju Potai – all aged between 25 and 45 years, Sharma said.
Lakhan and Baju were carrying cash rewards of Rs10,000 each, he said.
All Maoists were involved in several cases of crime in the region ranging from loot, arson, murder and attack on police party, he said, adding their interrogation was on.
Found: A search operation resulted in the arrests of nine Maoists
Safety first: A man takes his daughter home from her school hostel after the Kanker rape incidents were exposed in January 2013 (see below)
By Sahar Khan in Raipur
Rape of minor tribal girls in Kanker
Around a dozen minor tribal girls were allegedly raped by a teacher and a watchman for months in 2012 at a government residential school in Kanker.
The case came to light in January 2013 when the victims opened up during official inspection.
Lucky escape: Collector Alex Paul Menon was abducted by Maoists
Aman Kumar Singh, the then secretary to the CM, with the help of Kanker collector, secretly arranged for a meeting between the victims and the CM, who pledged to take all responsibilities for their education.
It was so confidentially done that even the CM’s secretaries and officials weren’t aware of it.
Sukma collector’s abduction
Collector Alex Paul Menon (R) was abducted by Maoists in April 2012 from Sukma at gunpoint.
He was the first IAS officer to be abducted by the CPI (Maoist) in the state.
The govt astutely monitored the development. An independent panel was constituted to hold dialogue with the rebels.
Negotiations proceeded and finally the Reds released Menon after 12 days without the Chhattisgarh government “yielding anything”.
In the backdrop of the Union Home Ministry recently pulling up Bihar for its failure to control Naxal violence, the CRPF has now deployed close to 200 commandos of its special CoBRA battalion to boost its offensive in the state.
The anti-Naxal-warfare-trained commandos will now not only assist about 5,000 troops of the CRPF already deployed in the state, but also carry out specific intelligence inputs-based strikes.
The units of the 207th battalion of the CoBRA has been based in Jamui, sources said, after taking them out from West Bengal.
A Maoist cadre was killed in an encounter with security forces in Orissa’s Malkangiri district early on Sunday after which two guns and some Naxal materials were seized.
Acting on intelligence inputs, security personnel conducted an operation inside Chittipali forest in the district, Malkangiri SP Akhileswar Singh said.
As the securitymen approached the Naxal hide-out, the ultras opened fire which was retaliated by the raiding team leading to a fierce exchange of fire for about an hour, he said.