New Delhi: The CPI(Maoist) has formally announced a change of guard. Basavaraj alias Namballa Keshav Rao has replaced Ganpathy alias Muppalla Lakshmana Rao as the new general secretary of the banned outfit, and also perhaps as the most wanted man in India.
The formal announcement, through a press release dated November 10, was handed out to local journalists in Bastar on Wednesday morning. The release confirmed that Ganpathy, has been replaced by Basavaraj.
Sources say it was 71-year-old Ganpathy who proposed the name of 63-year-old Basavaraj as the new general secretary in a meeting of the politburo members in February last year. As is the case with most CPI (Maoist) cadre, who mostly come from the undivided Andhra Pradesh, the new general secretary is also from Telangana.
While Ganpathy is from Berpur village of Jagdil district, Telangana, Keshav Rao is from Gianapet village of Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh. Ganpathy used to work as a teacher in Eligadu village of Karimnagar district and joined the Maoists after meeting Kondapalli Sitaramaiya who founded CPI-ML People's War Group.
In his over three-and-a-half-decade association with the outfit, Basavaraj has served as the chief of Central Military Commission (CMC). Intelligence sources had a few weeks ago attributed the rise in the number of incidents against security forces in Bastar to his promotion.
Basavaraj is known for being an expert in explosives and military tactics. He has been underground for the last 28 years. Little is known about his past except that he graduated from Regional Engineering College (REC) in Warangal, now renamed the National Institute of Technology (NIT). He was often arrested in Srikakulam for his agitations and protests led in student days.
“Every offensive against the security forces in the area you can think of, from Dantewada 2010 attack [in which 76 CRPF soldiers were killed], the Jeeram Ghati attack [in which 27 people, including former state minister and leader of Salwa Judum - Mahendra Karma, and Chhattigarh Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel, were killed], have been planned and ordered directly by him,” an intelligence officer told News18.
The officer said Basavaraj is the brain behind the outfit’s attacks against security personnel and his elevation may see a spike in such incidents.
For past several months, there have been speculations in Bastar about Ganpathy’s failing health. It was reported that the Naxal leader, who has a Rs 2.5 crore bounty on his head, was suffering from liver problems and had to be carried around.
The press release issued by the CPI (Maoist) makes an almost obituarial reference to Ganpathy, mentioning the illness he’s suffering from thrice, and recounting his 25-year tenure as the head of the People’s War Group, which then merged into CPI (Maoist) and took the shape of outfit that is today active in Bastar, parts of Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Jharkhand.
After Basavaraj, the next rung of the Maoist leadership has Ramanna, Devji, Kosa, Sonu, Deepak, Anand, Hari Bhushan and Sudhakar.