Television channels on Saturday, aired footage of India’s top Maoist leader Ganapati, creating a flutter in his native Andhra Pradesh.

All the Telugu news channels showed visuals of Communist Party of India (Maoist) general secretary Ganapati, alias Mupalla Laxman Rao alias Chandrasekhar, who hails from Karimnagar district.

The airing of the footage, contained in a CD seized by police recently during a shootout in West Bengal, created a flutter as these were the first pictures of Ganapati after he went underground nearly three decades ago.

Sitting along with his second-in-command, Prashanta Bose alias Kishenda alias Nirbhay Mukherjee, the most wanted Maoist was addressing party cadres. The channels said they have taken the visuals from YouTube. English daily Hindustan Times had said earlier that it was in possession of the CD.

While the police claimed that the Maoist leaders were speaking at CPI-Maoist’s ninth congress in 2007 somewhere in Bihar, Maoist sympathiser and revolutionary poet, Varavara Rao said, the visuals were of the unity congress held in September 2003, to finalise the merger of CPI(ML), People’s War and Maoist Coordination Committee of India.

The two outfits merged in 2004 to form CPI-Maoist, the most powerful Maoist group in the country, with considerable influence in nine states.

As the word spread that Ganapati’s visuals were being shown, people in his native village Beerpur in Sarangapur mandal of Karimnagar district were glued to the TV sets to see the man who had left a teacher’s job in the 1970s to join the left-wing extremist movement. He later joined CPI-ML People’s War floated by Kondapalli Seetharamaiah in early 1980s after the split in CPI-ML.

Ganapati, 50, did his B.Ed before taking up a teacher’s job. After joining the CPI-ML People’s War he worked as its Karimnagar district committee secretary and Andhra Pradesh state committee secretary before becoming the chief of CPI (Maoist).

The footage aired on Saturday, shows Ganapati appealing to party cadres to resist the police forces engaged in anti-Maoist operations. Speaking in Hindi, he also ruled out laying down arms for talks with the government.

Mr. Varavara Rao told reporters that the leak of the CD to the media by intelligence was a conspiracy to weaken the movement. He alleged that the government was trying to mislead people that Ganapati was ready to give up arms and join the mainstream.

“The visuals are being deliberately shown at a time when the government is sending forces to different states to suppress the Maoist movement,” he said.

Revolutionary balladeer Gaddar, who along with Varavara Rao had acted as emissaries of Maoists during their first-ever direct talks with the state government in 2004, confirmed that the man in the visuals is Ganapati.

“I salute the courage of this brave man who was speaking in public despite facing threat to his life,” he said. “His speech has highlighted the cause for which Maoists are fighting. The government is sending the army to kill people for whom Maoists have taken up this movement,” he added.

The Maoist sympathisers feel that Ganapati’s visuals could have its impact on the Maoist movement and the security of the top Maoists. They noted that Maoists lost several key leaders in Andhra Pradesh after they came out in public, for the talks with the state government.

The peace talks and eight-month ceasefire collapsed in early 2005. Police killed several Maoist leaders including their state chief during the last four years.