Hours before Bharatiya Janata Party prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s arrived on his scheduled poll visit to the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, Naxal rebels targeted the industrial facility of Essar Steel in Kirandul of restive Dantewada district on Friday afternoon.
The Naxalites set 17 trucks parked at the loading bay on fire around 1.45 pm and locked the drivers, conductors, and company employees before departing.
Chhattisgarh is a BJP-ruled state. The speculation is that the attack was timed on the day of Modi’s visit, to send a message.
Essar has set up an eight million tonne per annum (mtpa) beneficiation plant near Kirandul to supply high-grade iron ore to its pellet plant in Visakhapatnam. The material is pumped as slurry through a 267-km pipeline, the second longest in the world, to Vizag. Naxals had earlier damaged the pipeline and the company was transporting the ore by road. The parked vehicles were waiting for loading when the around 200 armed rebels struck. They rebels did the job and then melted into adjoining forest. The spot is hardly a kilometre from the Kirandul police station.
Modi’s own public meeting began at 4:30 pm about 250 km away, in Kondagaon of the Bastar region. Besides Modi, state Congress leaders were also in Bastar. The region goes to the polls on April 10.