Express News Service
MALKANGIRI: There is a palpable excitement in the Swabhiman Anchal, the erstwhile cut-off region of Malkangiri district, over the ensuing panchayat polls. Electioneering activities have picked up pace and received with enthusiasm among the people. Political posters, banners, campaigns have begun to become increasingly visible across the villages. Discussions at markets, tea-shops and gatherings are now centered around the upcoming polls.
“There is huge enthusiasm among the people of the region to vote. For the first time in over 10 years, the poll-buzz and people’s participation in the process is real. They will go out and exercise their franchise without fear,” says Ghana Muduli of Tablabeda village under Panasput panchayat.
The dark shadow of Maoists on the region has been removed and the people are raring to be part of the mainstream. The entire region had been a Naxal hotbed for decades, depriving people of their voting rights and participation in the democratic process. The situation has changed following a drastic improvement in the security scenario and fast-paced developmental activities including the opening of the Gurupriya bridge in the last few years.
There are nine panchayats in Swabhiman Anchal under Chitrakonda block which will go to the polls on February 24. With a population of 31,730, the region has 18,989 registered voters. Amid the deployment of the Border Security Force (BSF) and strict vigil by the district police, both villagers and political leaders are showing a keen interest to participate in the rural polls.
BJD workers were seen campaigning near the erstwhile Maoist base camp at Gorasetu Chowk within Jodamba police limits where top cadres including RK used to operate. The BSF has now taken over the rebels’ camp and set up its checkpost.
“BSF and police have been successful in penetrating into eight of the nine panchayats in Swabhiman Anchal, thereby instilling a sense of confidence among villagers. People feel safe and want to vote in the panchayat elections this time,” said Shyam Sundar Golari, a former Gram Rakhi who had to quit his job due to a Maoist threat a few years ago.
Echoing similar feelings, Ratan Hantal of Gorasetu village said since there is no threat of Maoists, there is huge enthusiasm among people to vote.BSF has also set up a check post at Jodamba where the rebels were once operating their base camp. Besides, company operating bases of BSF have come up at Janbai, Gorasetu, Jantapai, Jodamba, Hantalguda and Ghanabeda.
The security forces are present in eight panchayats of Gajalmamudi, Jodamba, Panasput, Papermetla, Ralegada, Dhuliput, Badpada and Andrapalli. Only Jantri panchayat bordering Andhra Pradesh is yet to get BSF’s security cover.
A police officer on condition of anonymity said security forces have been successful in extending security cover to eight panchayats. The forces will penetrate into Jantri soon. Jantri panchayat has around 1,272 voters from a population of 1,682.