Muppalla Laxmana Rao aka Ganapathi, General Seceratary, Communist Party of India (Maoist) confessed to a crisis within the party in a 7000-word letter to party members. The crisis, Ganapathi admits, is not just due the lack of leaders at the top, but also within the party ranks.
The number of members – earlier thought to be between 10,000 to 12,000 – has decreased, though no official figures are available. The ratio of men and women has also changed with women constituting 60% of the cadre. The government attributes the decline of the Maoists to the development projects in tribal areas.
While a huge number of them have surrendered or joined mainstream politics, several have become police informers, joined vigilante groups or formed bands of extortionists in several places. Vigilante groups have ‘surrendering ceremonies’ where Maoists lay down arms and join the groups to help catch their former comrades.
Ganapathi pointed out that only three Central Committee members working outside guerilla zones were free as of now. The rest have been killed or are in custody. When the last party congress, the Ninth or Unity Congress, was held in 2007, the CPI (Maoist) had around 40 central committee members and 14 politburo members. Now, only 20 central committee and seven politburo members are free.
Ganapathi’s letter comes at a time when the Maoists’ morale is already low because of the recent killing of Maoist sub-zonal committee chief Madhav (Gollu Ramullu) in Odisha. In the letter, Ganapathi asked for top Maoist leaders in jail to be freed – either by bailing them out or through prison breaks. He cited the jail break of three Maoists leaders from Chaibasa in January 2011, where slain politburo leader Kishenji‘s close aides – Girish ‘Mangru’ Mahato, Raghu Hembrom and Motilal Soren – broke the bars of the window of their cell and escaped the jail. After the escape, they returned to the then ‘liberated’ zone of Saranda and set up a massive training camp with Kishenji. Last year, there was a well-planned attack on a prison van in Giridih, Jharkhand in which several Maoist militia leaders were freed. In 2009, politburo member, Misir Besra escaped from a court in Bihar.
On the desertion of party members, Ganapathi said, “Instead of firmly adhering to our general political line and firmly implementing it creatively in the conditions where the enemy onslaught is seriously increasing and we are suffering losses, some individuals brought forth opportunistic arguments and left the party. Let us be cautious towards such opportunistic trends that that may also arise in future and fight them back. Let us get rid of sectarian and bureaucratic trends in internal party relations that are harming the unity of the party, isolating us from the masses and helping the enemy.”
One of the leaders who left the party is Sabyasachi Panda, Secretary, Odisha State Committee, and Zonal Commander. Panda, who had grievances against two central committee members – Manoj ‘Modem’ Balakrishna and Ramakrishna RK – both his superiors, exposed the sectarian conflict within the party. Following his exit, the Maoists have not been able to recruit cadres, especially of Odiya origin.
Panda was not alone. Members have left the party in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar over minor issues and joined vigilante groups. With the impetus of attractive surrender policies, a large number of Maoists left the party in the Gaya-Palamu area of Jharkhand- Bihar Special Area Committee in the last few years and joined mainstream politics.
Many members are unhappy with the leadership and regional differences are brewing within the party. This puts the CPI (Maoist) – which was a merger of the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), the People’s War Group (PWG) and other parties – at risk. However, Prashant Bose, second in the Maoist hierarchy and chief of the erstwhile MCC, is quiet about the differences. Several of the ex-MCC cadres in CPI (Maoist) are unhappy with how Andhra leaders treat them. For instance, Ajay Mahato – the Sub-Zonal Commander of Giridih in Jharkhand, who had led a raid on a prison van to free Maoist cadres – had been asking for arms, but got none from his superiors.
Then there is the tale of adivasi leader Kundan Pahan. Pahan had risen in the ranks by conducting some of the most daring raids and encounters and commanded several ‘liberated’ zones till permanent security camps were set up. “The Andhra leadership hands down directions and guidelines for Pahan, but the commander of the South Chhotanagpur Zonal Committee responds brusquely. But, he will not exit the party as it does not suit his purpose. The umbrella of the organisation provides fear and respect,” said a senior police officer.
A central intelligence officer says that leaders such as Pahan are important for the Maoists: “He is a tribal leader and an inspiration for the tribals in the rank and file of the Maoist organisation. Besides, see the amount of levy he has managed to send to the Maoists since the death of Kishenji.”
Pahan has been gunning for the role of the State Secretary and has the support of at least two politburo members, but the Andhra leadership is not giving in despite the lack of leaders. As the police are targeting him and rivals within the party want the same role as him, the Maoists’ Central Military Commission told him to recruit more guards in his coterie, but he decided to keep 10-12 of his trusted guards with him despite the diktat.
The Tenth Congress of the Maoists was scheduled to be held in early 2012, but it has been difficult for Maoist leaders to congregate together. The venue for the meet was to be Abujhmad, but after the entry of security forces in the area, the leaders fear getting caught or killed in encounters. Consequently, the leadership of the Maoists do not congregate for meetings, but meet in smaller groups. They still use couriers and a carefully planned network in the forests to exchange messages.
Despite the dearth of leaders, there is no consensus yet on the elevatation of junior members to the central committee. Besides, the positions of the jailed central committee members have been left vacant since their return is expected.
With most of the senior leaders of the party in their late fifties, Ganapthi said that he was looking forward to the movement gaining momentum through the youth and students who had joined them. The Maoists rely on the support of intellectual and frontal groups in urban areas which follow the Maoist ideology. Ganapathi hopes that the students of various colleges in Kolkata and Delhi will help revive the revolutionary movement in Kolkata. “They helped organise and sustain it in Lalgarh between 2008 and 2011,” he said. This statement is in line with the government’s suspicion that several students and professors of colleges in these two cities are involved with the Maoists.
CPI (M) POLITBURO MEMBERS
1) Muppalla Laxmana Rao (aka Ganapathi), 65, General Secretary
2)Prashant Bose (Kissanda / Manishji), 77, Founder of the MCC and its General Secretary till the merger in 2004. Currently Chief of Eastern Regional Bureau and the head of operations in Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal and Assam.
3)Nambala Keshav Rao (Basavraj / Ganganna), 55, Chief of the Central Military Commission and leader of the People’s Liberation Guerilla Army. After the death of Azad, he also took over the job of heading the Intelligence Wing of the party.
4)Misir Besra (Sunirmal / Commander / Bhaskar), 60+, Head of the military wing of the MCC till the merger. He now looks after several tactical issues of the militia wing including recruiting specialists for making bombs and is known for the famous 2004 Balliba encounter in Saranda after which he held a huge press conference in the forest.
5)Akkiraju Haragopal (Ramakrishna / Saket / Srinivas Rao), 64, Zonal Committees of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha report to him. He is also the Chief of Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee.
6)Mallojula Venugopal Rao (Abhay / Sonu), He is Kishenji‘s brother and was made the Chief of the Maoists’ Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee, which includes Gadhchiroli in Maharashtra. He was appointed the official spokesperson of the party’s Central Committee after the death of Azad in 2010 and is in charge of the party’s publications.