The restive Bastar region which is made up of seven sprawling districts, is back in the news with the reported convergence of a large number of armed Naxalites in recent days ahead of September 23 polling for Dantewada assembly seat.

Latest intelligence reports with the state police suggest Maoist cadres in large numbers have been arriving in the region from neighbouring states.

Police suspect that they are planning a major action before the Dantewada assembly seat by-election which is scheduled on Monday. Vigil has been increased and security forces have been alerted in Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Telangana.

Significantly, both the Congress and BJP have fielded as candidates widows of party leaders killed by Maoists militants. The Congress has fielded Devati Karma, whose husband and former minister in state government Mahendra Karma was killed by the Naxalites in the Jhiram massacre in May 2013. Many top Congress leaders in Chhattisgarh were killed in a Maoist landmine blast in Jhiram valley.

The BJP has nominated Ojasvi Mandavi, the widow of Bhima Mandavi whose death in a Maoist attack on April 9 this year has caused the Dantewada by-election.

Maoists had attacked the convoy of the BJP leader by triggering an improvised explosive device (IED) during the Lok Sabha elections. Besides Mandavi, five security personnel were also killed in the attack. The BJP legislator’s vehicle was last in the convoy.

The BJP and Congress are locked in a direct contest in Dantewada and their campaign revolves around Maoism and the attempts of the two mainstream parties to garner sympathy votes.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has often complained that the Centre is impeding the inquiry into the death of Mandavi.

Maoists have eliminated many leaders in this area. Before the 2018 assembly elections, the Maoists had also killed a Doordarshan cameraman in Nilavaya village. They had also killed two BJP leaders of Nakulnar in the 2008 assembly elections.

During the last assembly elections, the Congress had promised to solve the Maoist problem through dialogue. However, the state government is facing a piquant situation with the Centre taking a different stance now.

The Communist Party of India (CPI) in the state has been nudging the Congress government about the release of innocent tribal people who get targeted by both the Maoists as well as the security agencies.

After the Central action on Sections 370 and 35A in Kashmir, BJP is eager to appear more aggressive on terrorism and Maoists.

Earlier this week the Chhattisgarh Governor Anasuya Uike called on Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi who is said to have assured her that a detailed action plan against Maoists is being formulated and will be sent to the state government soon.