The recent military successes that the Maoist rebels have managed to pull off might be projected as spectacular wins, but the string of audacious ambushes do not really camouflage the crisis of leadership that is facing the CPI (Maoist).
Just a little more than a decade ago, the formation of CPI (Maoist) was hailed as a watershed moment in the Maoist revolutionary history of India. The rebels appeared to have consolidated control in swathes of areas from West Bengal to Andhra Pradesh and up to the borders of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
But as the States, actively assisted by the Centre, slowly began to master the art of counter-revolutionary warfare, the rebel movement sustained heavy losses. There were high-profile arrests of ideologues like Kobad Ghandy in New Delhi, and controversial killings of top Maoist leaders such as Patel Sudhakar Reddy and Cherukuri Raj Kumar. As many as 16 Central Committee Members have been arrested and four killed in alleged encounters in the past decade.
But even as the senior leadership dwindled, the military capabilities of the rebels increased manifold. However, the revolutionary movement itself weakened in most of its strongholds. The united Andhra Pradesh and Dandakaranya (parts of South Chhattisgarh and South-East Maharashtra) were controlled by the CPI-ML PWG, while Jharkhand and parts of Bihar were the MCCI fortresses. After the merger, the united CPI (Maoist) was expected to expand its activity but contrarily, its areas of operation dwindled and the revolutionary movement failed to achieve the spatial spread the ideologues had hoped for. This could be attributed to the failure of the Maoist party to overcome the leadership crisis arising out of its losses. “Our party lost a considerable number of comrades belonging to all levels… The failure is a very severe one,” wrote Ganapathy, general secretary, CPI (Maoist), in a recent issue of the party magazine People’s March. “In the past ten years... we have also not been able to achieve notable improvement in mobilising vast non-peasant masses inside guerrilla zones”.
Perhaps the most significant achievement of the Maoist party in recent times is the formation of a Western Ghats Special Zonal Committee at the junction of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, where it has said it will launch a severe politico-military campaign between November 2014 and January 2015.
If this is seen as areas of the Sahayadris opening up to the Maoist movement, the Maoists have suffered a severe setback in Telangana, once considered a beacon of the revolution. From being a special zone, it is now merely the Telangana State Committee in their administration.
The weakening revolution can only be explained by the diminishing ideological moorings in the rank and file of the political party.