Wednesday, April 22, 2009

BJP’s ‘campaign weapon’ in red zones

- Armed with licensed rifle, ex-MLA canvasses for Arjun Munda

Menka Sardar at the DC’s office in Jamshedpur. Picture by Bhola Prasad
Jamshedpur, April 21: With a rifle slung over her shoulders, she tours the red dens. But she is no gallant police officer out to take on Naxalites on their own turf. She is the BJP’s campaign “weapon”.

This election season, when many candidates and poll officials are giving Naxalite-hit areas a skip for fear of the unknown, Menka Sardar (40) is boldly venturing out to the red bastions within Jamshedpur Lok Sabha constituency to woo voters towards her party.

She has a few partymen for company and a licensed rifle loosely strapped across her shoulders.

“I am not afraid of the Maoists because I have not done any harm to them,” she told The Telegraph over phone from Dersa village.

Menka has already canvassed for the party candidate from Jamshedpur, Arjun Munda, in Udal, Dhegam, Harina, Banakata, Kope, Radur, Ramgarh, Narda, Fhuljhari, Katashila, Buruhatu and Sarse — all Naxalite strongholds — in the past one week.

“I move around with my rifle while campaigning as I don’t have bodyguards. I have a licensed firearm, which can come in handy during emergency situations,” she added.

Menka makes it a point to mention that the state had not provided her security cover even though she was from Potka, a rebel stronghold.

On Monday, Menka joined Munda for campaigning in Dersa, Butgora, Saharjhuri and Dumaria. Asked whether she was still armed in the presence of a considerable number of supporters, she replied in the negative, saying there was no need for it.

“I carry a rifle only when I am alone or there are a few supporters with me. Though the rifle was with me today also, I did not carry it,” she said.

“This is election season and I have to roam around in villages, garnering support for our candidates. My itinerary also includes visits to Maoist-affected villages. I know it’s a risky job, but I just cannot sit back at home,” the braveheart said.

“I am committed to the cause of my party. I have something to give back to the party that has always stood by me,” she added.

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