There has been a change of guard at the helm of CPI (Maoists). Muppala Lakshman Rao, 72, better known as Ganapathi, has made way for a younger colleague Namballa Keshav Rao, 63. Like Ganapathi, who is Telugu hailing from Birpur village of Jagtial of Telangana, Keshav Rao is also a Telugu, hailing from Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh.
Sources said that due to old age, Ganapathi was asked to step down as General Secretary after the CPI (Maoist) Central Committee decided to elevate a younger leader. Keshav Rao, Ganapathi’s second-in-command till recently, is famous by his alias Baswaraj and was head of the Central Military Commission. Like many people who joined the Maoist movement, Keshav Rao graduated from the Regional Engineering College, Warangal.
While Ganapathi carries a reward of Rs 49 lakh on his head, police and investigation agencies of various states have put a Rs 36 lakh reward on Baswaraj’s head.
Top officials in the Telangana Police said that the change in leadership happened about two months ago. “We are attributing the recent killing of a TDP MLA and former MLA in Araku to the tactics of Ganapathi’s successor Baswaraj, who is known to be very aggressive. The change of guard happened about two months ago after the CPI (Maoists) decided in a meeting that Ganapathi should make way for a younger leader,” a top Telangana Police official said, adding that Ganapathi is known to be unwell.
Ganapathi, son of a farmer and landowner, is a Science graduate and B.Ed from Karimnagar college and led the CPI (Maoists) for more than three decades. He was instrumental in the merger of People’s War Group (PWG), founded by Kondapalli Seetharamaiah, and Maoist Communist Centre of India, which resulted in the formation of CPI (Maoist) in 2004. Ganapathi is likely to guide the organisation that has experienced some serious setbacks in recent years and has been nearly wiped out of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.