- BJP lawmaker Bhima Mandavi was returning from campaigning
- Armoured vehicle overturned, split into two due to the IED blast
- The Maoist-hit Bastar region goes to polls in the first phase
BJP lawmaker Bhima Mandavi, 40, and four others were killed this evening when Maoists ambushed his convoy in Dantewada region of Chhattisgarh. The attack at Shyamagiri hills - nearly 350 km from state capital Raipur -- comes two days before the Maoist-infested Bastar area votes in the first phase of national elections.
Maoists have warned the locals not to vote in the election -posters carrying their message dot the area. In view of the lack of adequate security on the route, the local police had asked the lawmaker against making the journey, but he wished to get his message across to the people, sources said.
Photographs from the spot indicate the Maoists set off a blast through an Improvised Explosive Device that was buried on the road. The blast had ripped apart the bullet-proof vehicle in which the lawmaker was travelling. The mangled pieces can be seen lying some distance from a crater on the road.
Five people died instantly -- most of them suspected to be security personnel accompanying the lawmaker. Sources said when people tried to come out of other cars in the convoy, the Maoists, who were hiding nearby, opened fire. The gunfight that followed is still on, sources said.
The Central Reserve Police Force has rushed reinforcements in the area. Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has called for a high-level meeting. The Election Commission has sought an urgent report on the attack from the Chhattisgarh government and the state Election Officer.
Condemning the attack, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted:
Strongly condemn the Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh. My tributes to the security personnel who were martyred. The sacrifices of these martyrs will not go in vain.— Chowkidar Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 9, 2019
Shri Bhima Mandavi was a dedicated Karyakarta of the BJP. Diligent and courageous, he assiduously served the people of Chhattisgarh. His demise is deeply anguishing. Condolences to his family and supporters. Om Shanti.— Chowkidar Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 9, 2019
Bhima Mandavi had snatched the reserved constituency of Dantewada from Congress's Devti Karma in last year's assembly elections.
Chhattisgarh votes in three phases -- April 11, April 18 and April 23.
Ahead of last year's assembly polls, two policemen and a cameraperson of national broadcaster Doordarshan were killed in Dantewada district in October.
In 2013, a Maoist attack in Darbha valley, Sukma district, had wiped off the top leadership of the Congress in the state. Twenty-seven people had died - the list included state minister Mahendra Karma and state Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel.