Muppala Lakshman Rao, 72, alias Ganapathi, the general secretary of CPI (Maoist) has stepped down, paving the way for his second-in-command Nambala Keshav Rao alias Basavraj, 63, to take over the post.
The change of guard has been anticipated ever since the party’s Central Committee meeting was held in Feb 2017, and a resolution on ‘veteran comrades’ was passed asking senior leadership to voluntarily step down from their responsibilities because of their age.
Though there are rumours that the change was due to ideological differences, it is being expected that the Maoists wanted a younger leader to take charge.
The change took place about two months ago, and it was authenticated by a surrendered Maoist, who surrendered himself with an AK-47 in Chhattisgarh recently, after the murders of Araku MLA Kidari Sarveswara Rao and former MLA Siveri Soma in Andhra Pradesh.
The TDP leaders were killed near Livitiput village in Dumbriguda Mandal in Visakhapatnam agency by a 40-member Maoist crack team on September 23. The killing bore the signature of Basavraj and the involvement of PLGA (People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army), which is headed by Basavraj, was established.
Basavraj was earlier heading the Central Military Commission, the fighting force of the Maoists, and is known to be a field strategist with good knowledge of explosives and guerrilla warfare.
Basavraj is from Srikakulam district in Andhra Pradesh and is a graduate from the former Regional Engineering College in Warangal, which is now called NIT-Warangal. Ganapathi is the son of a farmer from Birpur village in Telangana’s Jagtial and holds a B.Sc. and a B.Ed. degree from a Karimnagar college.
It was Ganapathi who played a key role in the formation of the present outfit, the CPI (Maoist), after the merger of the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist), People’s War (People’s War Group) and the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI), in 2004.
The Naxalite movement started in 1967 in West Bengal as a response to the exploitation of tribals by landlords in Naxalbari. The lack of governance in deep forests and tribal areas led to the growth of the movement. It can be seen even today, that deep-set tribal areas in the hearts of Chhattisgarh and Srikakulam have a heavy presence of Naxalites or Maoists.
However, due to continuous efforts of the police forces and the government, the Naxalites are losing their grip. The party’s influence is now limited to the forests of and around Chhattisgarh.
Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, on November 16, during his two-day election campaign in Chattisgarh had assured that the menace of Naxalism will end in next three to five years. Talking to reporters Rajnath Singh said, “Naxalism will end in next three to five years. The surrender process is continuous and the government has decided to make the rehabilitation policy more effective.”
Singh said that Maoism is going through its last phase and it has been reduced from ninety districts to ten or eleven districts. He appealed to the Maoists to surrender and assured them of providing benefits of rehabilitation policy being pursued by the government.
Earlier, the US State Department had released statistical data collected globally in its annual report on terrorism in which the Communist Party of India (Maoist) was ranked as the 4th deadliest terror organisation in the world with a total of 295 attacks causing 206 deaths, 212 injuries and 125 kidnappings.
In the last few years, the NDA government has managed to inflict heavy losses on the left-wing terrorism not only in the strategic geographical hold but also by cutting off their support system by tackling funding channels and encouraging tribals of Naxal infested areas to join the mainstream.