Raipur, Nov 28 (PTI) General Secretary of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist), Ganapathy has been replaced by his second-in-command Nambala Keshava Rao alias Basavaraju, a purported statement from the Maoists said. Also Read - Chhattisgarh Naxal Encounter: After Massive Search Operation, Bodies of 17 Security Personnel Recovered, Say Police

Muppala Lakshmana Rao alias Ganapathy, around 71 years of age, has stepped down from his position due to his deteriorating health and age-related issues, a statement dated November 10 issued by the Maoists and circulated on social media, said. Also Read - Chhattisgarh Urban Body Election Results: Congress Wins 3 Municipal Bodies

He proposed to appoint Basavaraju, currently heading the central military commission, as general secretary, it said. Also Read - Dantewada Assembly Bypoll Results 2019: Congress Wins by Margin of 11,331 Votes

The two-page statement signed by Abhay, spokesperson of the central committee of Maoists also said, “The decision to elevate Basavaraju was approved during the fifth meeting of the central committee”.

After the CPI (Marxist-Leninist) (People’s War) and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) merged to form the CPI (Maoist) in 2004, Ganapathy took charge as its general secretary.

He was the general secretary of the CPI (Marxist-Leninist) (People’s War) from 1992 to 2004.

Basavaraju (63) is said to specialise in imparting military training and use of explosives and land mines.

Commenting on the development, Chhattisgarh Deputy Inspector General (anti-Naxal operations) Sundarraj P said the change of guard was a “symptom of the declining trend of the Naxal movement”.

“The security forces will focus on the strategy to counter the Left-wing extremism, irrespective of whether it is Ganapathy or Basavaraju or anyone else. CPI (Maoist) is an anti-national banned outfit and we will deal with it accordingly,” he said.

If the news is true, it is an outcome of “the offensive stand of the security forces” and “a cosmetic stunt by the Maoists to counter the ever-declining morale of its cadres”, the DIG said, adding authenticity of the statement was being verified.

The Chhattisgarh government, in the past, had announced a cash reward of Rs 1 crore each on Ganapathy and Basavaraju, he added.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.