A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator, Bhima Mandavi, and four other accompanying him in a convoy of vehicles were killed when Maoist rebels triggered an improvised explosive device (IED) in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar on Tuesday, two days before the region votes in the first phase of the 2019 general election.
The IED was detonated when the convoy was passing through Shyamagiri hills in south Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district at about 4.30 pm, the police said. The Bastar Lok Sabha constituency, where Left-wing insurgents are active, votes with 90 other parliamentary wards on April 11 in the first phase of the general election staggered over seven phases.
Mandavi’s convoy was heading towards Kuwakonda in Dantewada district from the Bacheli area, about 450 km from state capital Raipur. Along with Mandavi, the MLA from Dantewada, a driver indentified as Danteshwar Maurya and three security personnel, district force troopers Chhagan Kuldeep, Somdu Kawasi and Ramlal Oyami, were killed in the blast, police said.
The bullet-proof sports utility vehicle in which the legislator was travelling was blown up in the attack. Mandavi had crossed the same stretch of road on Monday with a team of district reserve guards on a journey that had passed without incident, Dantewada’s superintendent of police (SP) Abhishek Pallav said.
Director general of police DM Awasthi said Mandavi had been warned of a possible Maoist attack on Tuesday, but he decided to go ahead with the journey.
“After winding up his Lok Sabha campaign, Mandavi started moving towards Kuankonda bazaar and then the station house officer of Kirnadul police station, Sheel Aditya Singh, called him and requested him not to continue the journey,” Awasthi said. No personnel were around to clear the road nor had security arrangements been made on the way. The MLA continued his journey with three vehicles in the convoy, Awasthi said. During his campaign, Mandavi had security cover of about 50 personnel in 10 vehicles.
Girdhari Nayak, special director general (anti-naxal operations ), said about 30 Maoists attacked the convoy after the IED blast, but fled after security personnel fired on them.
The Maoists were from the Malangir Area Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), Nayak said.
Awasthi said the blast created a crater about six-feet wide and deep. “The size of the crater suggests that the IED could be around 60-70 kg and would have been triggered from about 100 metres,” he said.