Revolutionary balladeer Vangapandu Prasada Rao, whose popular "Em pillado" was a war cry and stimulated hundreds to join the Naxalbari movement in Andhra Pradesh, has stirred a row by using the same song to praise the late chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy.
By singing in praise of YSR, who died in a helicopter crash early this month, the Telugu writer and poet has invited anger from revolutionary artists in the state, who termed it an "act of hypocrisy".
"Em pillado", one of several revolutionary songs penned and sung by Vangapandu, highlighted the inequality in society, stirred souls, electrified the air and inspired youth to join the Srikakulam movement (1967-70), which marked the beginning of the Maoist movement in the state.
Now the 66-year-old Vangapandu, who co-founded Jana Natya Mandali, the cultural wing of the erstwhile CPI-ML People's War in 1980s along with popular balladeer Gaddar, has mixed the same popular song with words in praise of YSR.
The veteran artist, who is well known for multiple talents of composing, singing and dancing, has defended his action saying it was a tribute to YSR for his efforts to help the poor and downtrodden.
"There is nothing wrong in what I am doing now. YSR did a lot for the farmers and the poor in this state by introducing free electricity for agriculture, health insurance, housing and pension schemes for old age people, widows and handicapped," he said.
Vangapandu pointed out that YSR also introduced a scheme for a monthly pension of Rs.500 to each cultural artist. "Even retired artists are getting the pension. No other chief minister had done this."
"I am singing in his praise as per the wishes and aspirations of the people of this state, who were shocked by his untimely death," said the artist.
However, the revolutionary artists and Maoist sympathisers are up in arms against him for singing in praise of YSR, in their view a "feudal ruler, who brutally suppressed the Maoist movement" during his regime.
"This is hypocrisy. Using a song which inspired many to join the movement for praising YSR amounts to betraying the movement," said Devi, a revolutionary artist. She said Vangapandu had lost his credibility and was no longer a people's singer as he decided to sing for a particular individual.
She recalled that all the revolutionary artists had come out in support of Vangapandu when he recently protested use of a few lines from the same song for a Telugu film.
She was referring to the controversy over a song in "Magadheera" featuring young actor Ramcharan Teja, son of superstar K. Chiranjeevi.
Vangapandu and dozens of other artists had staged a demonstration in front of filmmaker Allu Aravind's house here last month, demanding removal of the lines, used for a love song. He also sought a public apology.
"Folk songs are born of the hardships of people, and portray their life and travails. Rural people have music imbibed in their veins and only I can write such a song," he had said. Vangapandu had also challenged Allu Aravind and lyricist Chandra Bose to write a similar song.