Keshava as new Maoist chief may mean more violence
tinued his MTech, after studying BTech from the Regional Engineering College (now National Institute of Technology), Warangal in Telangana, joined the underground movement of CPI( ML) People’s War in 1984. He belongs to Srikakulam district of Andhra and carries a reward of Rs 25 lakh on his head, as announced by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.
Ganapathi, after helming the extremist outfit for over two decades, stepped down following an intense debate on the future course of the party in the wake of the crackdown by the BJPled NDA government on the Maoists over the last fourand-a-half years. A majority of the central committee favoured Ganapathi making way for Keshava Rao, the central military commission-in-charge, as the next secretary.
These changes and other policy shifts came to light following the surrender to the police recently of an important Maoist leader who is their Chhattisgarh state committee member. The change of Maoist leadership happened three months ago, but the new secretary has taken charge very recently, according to police sources.
These changes are being studied by the police of several states, including Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, and officials of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), besides other Central agencies. Several other changes too were made at the level of the top Maoist leadership. Ganapathi, however, has been retained as adviser and guide, “marga darshak”.
Unlike in the past when the outgoing secretaries were allowed to end their underground life, Ganapathi will continue to remain underground, but will be confined to analysing revolutionary movements across the world. Ganapathi led the Maoists since September 2004 and was the secretary of CPI (People’s War) from 1993.
Ganapathi has stepped down in the wake of a generational shift among the Maoists for some time. Ke- shava Rao, in his early 60s, is known to be active among the top leadership and state committees, as he has handled the purchase and supply of arms and ammunition and training to the squads. Now, Tippiri Tirupathi, a 53-year-old central military commission (CMC) member replaces Keshava Rao, as CMC secretary.
Tirupati, alias Devji, who studied up to Intermediate, is from Jagitial in Telangana and carries a reward of Rs 25 lakh on his head. He has been the trusted lieutenant of Keshava Rao in the CMC and is responsible for several armed attacks on the Central forces in Chhattisgarh. Yapa Narayana, 54, another CMC member, has been given charge of Telangana state committee, a sort of elevation in the party.
The others who were promoted as part of the generational shift are: Takkellapalli Vasudeva Rao, alias Vasu, 52, who has been given charge of Dandakaranya special zonal committee and the central action team (armed attacks). He belongs to Bhoopalapalli district in Telangana and has been working in Chhattisgarh since 2016.
Another key Maoist operative in Chhattisgarh, Katta Ramachandra Reddy, 54, has been promoted from East Bastar divisional committee in-charge to Dandakaranya special zonal committee member. He carries a reward of Rs 20 lakh on his head. Potula Kalpana, 44, the wife of killed Mao- ist leader Kishanji, has been made another Chhattisgarh based forest zonal committee member.
Saka Hanumanthu, 55, has been elevated as Dandakaranya zonal committee member and is in charge of West Bastar divisional committee and southern regional unified command to carry out attacks on the Central forces. Krishna Kumari, 48, has been elevated as Dandakaranya forest committee member. Both Hanumanthu and Kumari carry a reward of Rs 20 lakh each on their heads.
The police forces are alarmed over the rise of Keshava Rao as he is believed to be a hard-liner. If Ganapathi preferred specific target oriented attacks against the “en- emy” (police forces), Keshava Rao belongs to a camp which believes that some collateral damage is inevitable in times of emergency, police sources said.
The police has definite information that Keshava Rao was behind the 2010 Maoist attack on CRPF personnel in Chhattisgarh in which 74 jawans were killed. Keshava Rao is also responsible for the killing of Mahendra Karma, the founder of Salwa Judum, and 27 others in 20I3. The recent killing of TDP MLA K. Sarvewara Rao and an ex-MLA, Somu, too, are attributed to Keshava Rao’s rise.
The Maoists have been under attack for the last I0 years, especially after the launch of Operation Green Hunt by the previous UPA regime, but they faced severe heat after the BJP-led government came to power at the Centre in 20I4. In these circumstances, they have come to believe that only an aggressive hard line against not only the Central forces but also “informers” (civilians) who help the police, will help them.
The police point out that the 7 November Thursday attack of landmine blast in Chhattisgarh killing four civilians and a security jawan in Dantewada, is an example of the Keshava Rao style operation. The attack came a day before the meetings of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi in Chhattisgarh on Friday.