Fighting, perhaps, their biggest battle for survival, the Maoists have begun the tactical war in key regions of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra.
A glimpse of it came to the fore in the last two days when the Maoists, besides carrying a spectacular attack in Kondpal area of Sukma district in Chhattisgarh where they killed 15security personnel, carried out simultaneous ambush attacks in three other places of - Bijapur on the tip of south Chhattisgarh, Khammam in Andhra and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra.
After successful elections in Chhattisgarh despite their boycott call, the Maoists were desperate to make their presence felt and regain respect and fear among tribal.
Called the tactical counter offensive campaign (TCOC) in Maoists parlance, the offensive is usually launched when Maoists are keen to carry out recruitment or want to have a big meeting of their senior leaders to take stock of their operations and discuss future plans.
"TCOC is generally launched to divert the attention of security forces by undertaking guerrilla offensives at several places simultaneously. This time the reason could be to launch a spectacular attack somewhere else by keeping the security forces confused and busy in different pockets. But we are factoring this in our strategy to deal with them," a senior CRPF official said.
While Sukma attack carried out by Darbhaghati commander, Surendra under the overall guidance of Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC) commander P Ramana, the other three attacks were also carried out by DKSZC local units.
Alert after these attacks, the Centre has rushed in 3,000 elite commandoes of CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) to key areas with instructions to launch precision strikes with an aim to inflict maximum casualties on PLGA of CPI (Maoist).
States have been given specific instructions to spare special task force (STF) to assist CoBRA units who are adept in moving swiftly in jungles and remain there up to 10 days without much ration.
To make the attacks very precise to avoid civilian casualties, the Cente has also ordered to press maximum number of UAVs in service and fly for long hours over key stretches of Chhattisgarh, Odisha Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Andhra borders where Maoists guerrillas try to concentrate and inflict maximum damage taking the help of borders.
States polices and paramilitary forces have also been asked to make maximum use of their Intelligence apparatus among the tribal population. Intelligence inputs indicate that the Maoists are planning to launch such simultaneous attacks in Jharkhand, Odisha, Maharashtra and Bihar too.
However, Centre's problems do not end here, as there are not enough security footprints on the ground to dominate the region.
Centre's security heavy approach, which came under severe criticism during Chidambaram's period as union home minister, needs an overwhelming presence of security personnel. His period saw paramilitary forces increase their strength to 1,70,000 only in the Bastar region. The Centre still finds it short of the desired number.
Bastar is much bigger than Kerala. How can you expect 1.7 lakh troops to make their presence felt in such a large land mass and in face of such a wily enemy who dissolves in tribal population? I cannot tell you exactly what kind of numbers we need there but yes we need substantially more than the present or else the fight will remain difficult," a senior official said.