What prompted the elusive general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), Mupalla Lakshman Rao alias Ganapathy, to send an SOS to the leaders of his party?
The past four years haven’t been too good for the Maoists. It all started with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh calling them “the greatest internal security threat”, followed by a ban on the party and massive anti-Maoist campaigns by the central security forces.
After five years of an almost free run since its formation in 2004 through the merger of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (People’s War) and the Maoist Communist Centre of India, the Maoists suddenly found themselves outnumbered and leaderless as most of their top-ranking commanders and intellectuals were picked up by the security forces.
Hinting strongly that the arrests had been possible probably because a section of the key operatives of the party cut deals with the government too easily, Ganapathy asked his men to “explore all legal and illegal ways” to get the jailed leaders out — either by breaking in or by obtaining bail.
According to intelligence data accessed by HT, 17 of the 48 members of the party’s central committee and all-powerful politburo are now behind bars and nine have been killed by security forces. Besides, three top leaders died of illness, three are now inactive and one surrendered to the authorities.
The gap in the leadership could not be bridged even after bringing in 11 new faces to the original 37-member central committee. Ganapathy said since 2010 “preservation of the existing leadership had become the most important task before the party”.
What’s more, the 17-page letter — HT first broke the story on September 17, 2013 — admits that the party has lost considerable ground in West Bengal, Jharkhand and north Bihar and the Dandakaranya forest area that covers vast swathes in Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.
Although the Maoist leadership hopes to strengthen its network in Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, north India and the north-eastern states, its clout — and, naturally, revenue — is dwindling fast with no sign of turning around.
The crisis has been so unnerving for Ganapathy that, security experts say, he has made a terrible tactical mistake — almost unheard of during his career as the topmost Maoist strategist — by sending the letter to too many people and not being able to stop it from being leaked out.
Ganapathy has attributed this crisis mainly to two factors — the “unprecedented level of offences unleashed by security forces at a time when the party was not prepared” and “weaknesses within the party”.
He identified the weaknesses as “failures in maintaining a high level of secrecy” and “non-proletarian” trends. He said this alienated the Maoists from their support base.
Among the major setbacks is the failure of the movement in West Bengal’s Lalgarh, about 180 km west of Kolkata, where unnecessary killings and continuous shutdowns finally forced the locals to cooperate with the forces although the rebels had managed to turn the area into a red fortress.
Now, looking for a solution, what the Maoist boss has come up with is a typical textbook strategy: “If necessary, we must take a step backward where we suffered severe losses or lost initiative due to other reasons and work patiently.”