Ganapathi paves the way for Basavraj to take over as general secretary
For the first time since formation of the CPI (Maoist) in 2004, its founder-general secretary Muppala Lakshman Rao (72) alias Ganapathi stepped down to pave the way for his second in command Nambala Keshav Rao (63) alias Basavraj, to take charge as general secretary.
Police sources said a resolution had been passed by the central committee during its meeting at Abujmarh, Chhattisgarh, in February 2017. In the meeting, it was learnt that the veteran leader had been asked to step down voluntarily to make way for the younger generation to infuse new ideas to the sagging movement, and that appeared to be the main reason for Ganapathi making way for Basavraj. Ganapathi was asked to assume the role of an adviser and continue to be a member of the central committee and Polit Bureau. Though the change of guard was not officially communicated by the Maoists, according to a surrendered member, it is to be declared during the proposed sixth central committee meeting to be held in November in Chhattisgarh, preferably during the PLGA (Peoples Liberation Guerilla Army) week celebrations.
A senior police officer engaged in anti-Maoist operations said that normally such decisions were taken in a party congress, but the last one was held in 2007, and since then it has become difficult to hold it due to intensified combing operations in all Left Wing Effected (LWE) States.
Hailing from Birpur in Telangana’s Jagtial district, Ganapathi is considered an ideologue and the architect of the present CPI (Maoist), with the merger of the CPI (Marxist–Leninist) People’s War (People’s War Group) and the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI), in 2004. Apart from being a septuagenarian, reliable sources in the Intelligence Department say he had been indisposed for the last one year and suffering from acute arthralgia.
As treating him from a safe house in urban locale can lead to his exposure and arrest, he has been reportedly treating himself with homoeopathy medicine.
Apart from age and sickness, the waning of the movement, especially in AP and Telangana, also appears to be the reasons for the party asking Ganapathi to step down. For quite some time, the organisation has been facing a leadership crisis, especially in the form of recruitment of intellectual leadership.
Some documents found at some sites where exchange of fire took place between Maoists and security forces revealed that Prashanta Bose alias Kishanda, Polit Bureau member, in one of the documents opined that due to lack of educated and intellectual youths, the party had failed to build its leadership, impacting the organisation’s expansion.
The documents also reportedly revealed that the outfit was indeed facing a leadership crisis not only in the topmost levels but also at the middle-level, which is considered to be the main fighting force of the Maoists.
The leadership crisis was evident from a 7,000-worded letter written by Ganapathi in 2013 to his cadres. The Polit Bureau that had a strength of about 14 in 2005 has dwindled to seven and the Central Committee Members (CCM) had fallen from 40 to 14, within a span of 11 years. Either, they have been killed in exchange of fire or arrested or surrendered. Five of the seven Polit Bureau members and nine of the 14 Central Committee Members are from AP and Telangana.
Prashant Bose, the only leader from MCCI, Bihar in the Polit Bureau, has reportedly been stating about the domination of leaders from AP and Telangana, and despite that failing in reviving the movement in both the Telugu-speaking States.
Sources in the Intelligence Wing say that Ganapathi is being blamed for failing to bolster a corridor along Odisha’s western border with Dandakaranya to link up with comrades further north in Jharkhand.
The idea was to facilitate easier transit of rebel cadres northward into Jharkhand, and strengthen the southward movement of weapons and ammunition from Bihar and Jharkhand into Odisha and Dandakaranya, which has turned to be safe haven for the Maoists.
Further, after the massive strikes and inroads made by the security forces, especially by the specially trained security forces such as C-60 of Maharashtra, Greyhounds of AP and Telangana and SOG of Odisha, the Maoists have been looking for a fresh leader to bolster the fighting capabilities, and Basavraj fits the bill.
Documents found at encounter sites also reveal that the central committee and Polit Bureau members were not happy with the growing discord between the tribal and non-tribal cadres.
A number of tribal leaders such as Kundan Pahan in Jharkhand and Jambri (killed in action this year) in AOB had reportedly expressed displeasure at ‘high-handedness of non-tribal leaders’, and Basavraj who till now headed the Central Military Commission, is said to be respected both by the tribals and non-tribals, and is regarded as a fighting force and that makes him a natural choice.
But security experts feel that Ganapathi being asked to step down is just the tip of the iceberg and it reflects the infighting between the senior leaders and dearth of intellectual leadership, which could lead to a collapse of the organisation.