Bhubaneswar:  Maoists in Odisha kidnapped a ruling party legislator early Saturday even as talks continued with the rebels for the release of two Italians abducted 10 days ago, an official said.

Biju Janata Dal (BJD) lawmaker Jhina Hikaka, 37, was abducted after midnight by a 100-150 strong group of Maoists from a hilly area between Koraput and Laxmipur, about 500 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, police said.

The rebels, however, released the driver of the vehicle and a body guard accompanying the lawmaker. The abduction came as three state officials continued their talks with two mediators named by the Maoists for the negotiations for release of the Italians.

Social activist Dandapani Mohanty and tribal expert B.D. Sharma, who were named by the rebels, held talks with three senior officials - P.K. Jena, U.N. Behera and Santosh Sarangiere.

The Italians Bosusco Paolo, 54, and Claudio Colangelo, 61 were abducted from the border of Ganjam and communally sensitive Kandhamal district March 14. After the lawmaker's abduction, the Maoists left a leaflet at the site re-stating the 13 demands they have set for the release of the Italians and demanded that these should be fulfilled at the earliest.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik who held a meeting of top police and administrative officials said his government is urgently handling the latest kidnapping.

The 13 demands of the rebels include a ban on the visit of tourists to the tribal areas; halt on anti Maoist operations, and release of several prisoners. The incident found an echo in the assembly when Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members created an uproar forcing Speaker Pradip Amat to adjourn the house a number of times.

The members shouted slogans against the government and trooped towards the speaker's seat as soon as the question hour started. They kept shouting even when Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik tried to read out a statement.

The rebels had earlier shot dead a police sub inspector in the district of Malkangiri, a Maoists strong hold, late Thursday even as the talks were on.

Patnaik speaks to abducted MLA's wife
   
Meanwhile, Naveen Patnaik on Saturday spoke to the wife of abducted MLA and assured her of all possible steps by the government for securing the release of her husband.

"I spoke to Kaushalya, wife of the abducted MLA, and assured her that we will do everything possible for the release of her young husband," Patnaik told reporters.
   
She was also told that two ministers would be visiting her soon, the chief minister said.

(Agencies)