Soon after his arrival at Koraput, Patnaik held a meeting with leaders from the district and senior officials to review the situation arising out of the Biju Janata Dal legislator's abduction by rebels belonging to the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee of the Communist Party of India-Maoist.
Among those present in the meeting were ST and SC minister Lal Bihari Himirika, Koraput MP, MLAs from Koraput and Jeypore, zilla parishad president and officials. Patnaik's visit to the district is significant as the AOBSZC ultras have placed demands, which appear to be difficult to fulfill and the chief minister is keen to concentrate on the release of Hikaka, a senior official said.
"With Italian Paolo Bosusco's release, the state government will now be able to give sufficient time for the resolution of the MLA hostage crisis," he said.
Another official said that the chief minister's visit, during which he held discussion mainly with local leaders, was aimed at exploring different channels in a bid to facilitate release of Hikaka unharmed as early as possible.
Though the government is not in a mood to meet the Maoists' demand to release 30 prisoners, including hardcore ultra Chenda Bhusanam alias Ghasi, accused of killing at least 55 policemen, some solution is likely to emerge, sources indicated.
The state government, which has decided to facilitate release of 23 prisoners, including 15 members of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha and eight Maoists, wants bail petitions to be moved on behalf of these people in courts.
The Maoists belonging to the AOBSZC have warned that they would be compelled to decide the fate of Hikaka in a 'praja' court (people's court) if the government delayed in meeting their demands or tried any trick.
The state government, however, has made it clear that a legal process has to be followed for the release of the 23 prisoners and that their bail petitions must be moved quickly.
Ater Bosusco's release, Hikaka's wife Kaushalya once again appealed to the Maoists to release her husband immediately without causing any harm, pleading that "he is innocent". She also expressed the hope that the state government would take further steps to free her husband.
With Hikaka's abductors remaining rigid on their demands and ruling out negotiation of any form through mediators, the government now seems to be trying to find some help from the Maoist-backed CMAS and use their influence on the AOBSZC for a solution to the hostage crisis, the sources said.
The Maoists had wanted Hikaka's wife to reach Balipeta in Naxal-hit Narayanpatna area along with 30 freed rebels, two mediators who negotiated with government representatives to resolve Italian abduction crisis and a Koraput-based lawyer for a hostage-prisoner swap. However, the state government, which had already agreed to many demands of the Naxals, was not in favour of allowing anyone to visit the place.
The chief minister, after reviewing the situation, is also slated to visit Laxmipur and meet family members of the abducted MLA. Hikaka was abducted by Maoists early on March 24 while returning home at Laxmipur after attending a meeting in Koraput.