BHUBANESWAR: Odisha Government's proposed swap deal with the Maoists for release of abducted Laxmipur MLA Jhina Hikaka has brought to centrestage the alleged secret deal between Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS), a tribal peasants’ organisation of Koraput which the ruling party had been staying clear of till recently.
Not long ago, the Naveen Patnaik Government was after Nachika Linga, head of CMAS which has been waging a war against land owners in Koraput and accused of a spate of violence in the forested pockets of the district. But a clandestine electoral deal seems to have tied the hands of BJD, prompting it to toe the lines of CMAS which was even described as an outlawed outfit in the White Paper of Home Department recently. For the Odisha Police, CMAS is synonymous with CPI(Maoist).
So what was the deal actually? Did the BJD promise that jailed activists of CMAS would be released after the election? Curiously, bowing before the demands of the CPI(Maoist) which abducted Hikaka on March 24, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has announced that 16 members of CMAS would be released along with eight Maoists in exchange for the safe release of the MLA.
It was an opportunistic alliance between the ruling party and the outfit for the former's electoral gains that may have led to the mess that BJD currently finds itself in.
In the recently-concluded Zilla Parishad elections, Congress and BJD bagged 14 seats each in Koraput district whereas one seat was won by an independent candidate owing allegiance to the CMAS. This is when the deal was struck between the BJD and CMAS, and a ruling party man was installed as the Zilla Parishad president.
Days before Hikaka was kidnapped by the Maoists, BJD leaders of Koraput district, including MP Jayram Pangi, and three MLAs, including Hikaka, submitted a memorandum to the chief minister seeking fulfillment of 10-point demands. The demands were similar to the ones raised by CMAS. Non-implementation of the deal after BJD won the election is said to be the cause behind the kidnapping of the legislator who played a key role in brokering the deal.
While this has given credence to the allegations of BJD's secret alliance with CMAS, the Opposition is already making an issue out of it. Congress has demanded a CBI probe into the deal and the alleged links between the CMAS and the BJD but strangely, Patnaik has kept mum on the issue so far.
Interestingly, the swap deal for the MLA's freedom has also angered Sabyasachi Panda, the secretary of the Odisha Organising Committee of the CPI(Maoists) who is behind the abduction of Italian national Paolo Bosusco. Panda is not amused with the announcement which promises to release 16 CMAS activists and eight Maoists for the MLA abducted by his rivals in the Maoist organisation. Panda has even dubbed the Hikaka abduction as "orchestrated" by the BJD.
As Maoism has spread to 20 districts of the state, the opportunistic politics has taken the state several years back in fighting Maoism, a senior Congress leader who does not want to be quoted said.