Meet new Palamau MP: ex-Naxalite commander in jail

In Jharkhand, one of the states worst hit by Naxalism, a former Naxal commander, currently lodged in jail, has been elected to the Lok Sabha on a Jharkhand Mukti Morcha ticket. Kameshwar Baitha's supporters are already hailing his win as "the first success of our resolve to bring the Naxalites into the mainstream".

Baitha defeated sitting RJD MP Ghuran Ram in Palamau, a Naxal hotbed, by 23,538 votes. This was his second attempt in Parliamentary elections. In a 2007 bypoll, he contested on a BSP ticket but was defeated. This time, he had the backing of not just the JMM and former Jharkhand minister Bhanu Pratap Shahi, who represents the Bhavnathpur Assembly seat in Palamau, but also a section of the Maoist outfit he once led.

Born to farmer Jadu Baitha in Garhwa, Kameshwar Baitha, after clearing his matriculation examination in 1975, decided against college and headed for the jungles to join the People's War Group. He quickly rose up the ranks and became the Palamau head of the outfit. Confirming this, Palamau SP Ravi Kant Dhan said: "Everybody knows he was the zonal commander of the CPI(Maoist)."

As he supervised his election campaign from inside Bihar's Bhabua Jail, a section of the CPI(Maoist) declared him a "traitor" and burnt his campaign vehicles and posters. But it is said he had the backing of another section of the Maoists and, of course, the JMM and Shahi together they all helped him win the election.

In his poll affidavit, Baitha declared a house worth Rs 2 lakh, 2.5 acres of land, 50 grams of gold, 200 grams of silver, two motorcycles, a tractor and an LIC policy for Rs 3 lakh. He is married to Deomania Devi and they have three sons. He has been chargesheeted in 11 of 18 cases against him, the charges ranging from murder, attempt to murder, extortion and possession of firearms. These cases date back to the period 1997-2005.

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