The fear of a Naxal attack is looming large over the forthcoming Udupi–Chikmagalur Lok Sabha by-elections, especially in the Naxal strongholds within the constituency.
Though the Naxalites have so far done nothing more than putting up a poster or distributing handbills, asking the people to not to vote, people fear that armed Naxalites may visit their villages.
There had been more than five armed confrontations between Anti-Naxal Force (ANF) and Naxalites in the last 10 years.
There have been two incidents of Naxalites showing up in villages in Hebri, about 30km from Udupi, ever since the by-elections were announced. According to local informants, a group of three alleged Naxalites had visited the village Nadpalu, about 5km from Hebri and asked the people not to vote in the by-elections.
In the second incident, they had appeared in Kabbinale village. There are 12 booths in Nadpalu, Varanga, Mudradi, Kabbinale and Hebri police limits. Nadpalu happens to be the hometown of the Maoist leader Vikram Gowda, operating in the Hebri–Shankaranaryana (Kundapur) range.
In the 2008 assembly elections and 2009 Lok Sabha elections, there was a heavy voter turnout, despite threats from Naxalites. Hence the local police feel the Naxal threat may not be that potent.
Inspector general of police (Western range) Pratap Reddy said: “We are still in the process of assessing the sensitivity levels of the booths coming under Naxalite areas. We have identified few areas in Chikmagalur and Udupi districts, which have a history of Naxal activities.”
In the last two elections, the police had identified 159 booths coming under Naxal-infested areas, but those days the Naxal activity was at its peak.