“I am shocked and in fear. But how can I do politics if I don’t travel and meet people,” said Gurucharan Nayak, the former BJP MLA who was attacked by the suspected members of the CPI (Maoist) on Tuesday evening in Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district. While Nayak escaped the attack, two of his guards were killed, with the attackers slitting their throats.
Recalling the attack, Nayak told The Indian Express that he had left his residence at Tunia village in Ranchi early Tuesday and travelled around a kilometre to attend a felicitation programme at a playground in Jhilriuaan village in West Singhbhum district. “Suddenly, five very young men, probably 17-18 years old, latched onto my police guards. The guards overpowered them, but could not unlock their rifles swiftly and got killed. I heard the attackers telling the crowd, ‘Bhaag jao, hum maowadi hai (Run, we are Maoists)’. I ran through fields with the others in the crowd and managed to escape,” he said.
But Nayak, 53, says he is yet to come to terms with the fact that this was the second time in 10 years that he had survived an attack on his life. In 2012, he was attacked allegedly by Maoists during a public function in Manoharpur. One person was arrested in the case.
The son of a farmer, Nayak started his political career with the NSUI, the Congress’s student wing, but as the Ayodhya movement peaked, his politics shifted to the Right. In the early 1990s, he volunteered as a “kar-sevak’ for the VHP. In 2004, he joined the BJP, reportedly at the behest of BJP legislative party leader Babulal Marandi.
In 2009, he won his first election as a BJP candidate from Manoharpur Assembly constituency, where he claimed to have initiated construction of at least 40 roads. As MLA, he led several protests against his own BJP-led coalition government to seek the construction of a railway station at Ghaghra near Manoharpur. According to the election affidavit that he filed in 2019, Nayak has four cases against him under the Railways Act.
Asked about these cases, Nayak said, “I was protesting in support of people who were seeking a railway station. We organised many chakka jam in 2011 and 2012. The station was finally made in June 2014,” he said.
He also runs a primary school, Antodaya Siksha Niketan, that has classes from 1 to 5.
But in the subsequent two elections, 2014 and 2019, he lost to Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s Jobha Manjhi, who is currently a Cabinet minister in the Jharkhand government.
Nayak, who has a postgraduate degree in History from Kolhan University in Chaibasa, said he is currently pursuing his PhD from Bihar’s Magadh University.
Jharkhand BJP members talk of Nayak as among the “decent politicians” in the state. A source in the BJP said, “When Nayak was attacked the first time, in 2012, we got to know that the top leadership of the CPI (Maoist) was unhappy with him over the work he had done in his constituency, including on building roads. There was no other reason why the Naxals would want to target him. Luckily, he escaped both times.”
The 2012 attack happened at a time when politicians in the state were being attacked by Naxals. A year earlier, 10 people, including eight policemen, were killed in an attack targeting Chatra MP Inder Singh Namdhari. Namdhari escaped. In 2007, JMM MP Sunil Mahato was killed in a Naxal attack and in 2008, Tamar JD(U) MLA Ramesh Singh Munda was killed, allegedly by Maoist Kundan Pahan, who contested the 2019 Assembly election while in jail.