Rebel balladeer Gaddar backs Congress

Once a Maoist ideologue, the folk singer pledges support to the Congress’s Save Constitution Movement

By Pheroze L. Vincent in New Delhi
  • Published 13.10.18, 3:08 AM
  • Updated 13.10.18, 3:08 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Rahul Gandhi meets Gaddar in New Delhi on Friday. (PTI)

Former Maoist ideologue and folk singer Gummadi Vittal Rao of Telangana, better known by his pen name “Gaddar” (revolution), met Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi at their homes here on Friday and pledged support for the Congress’s “Save Constitution Movement”.

“We will build the movement to save the Constitution…. I will start in Telangana and then travel across south India before going to other states to support the Save Constitution Movement,” the 69-year-old told The Telegraph after meeting Sonia.

“I am not campaigning for any party but I will be a bridge between the revolutionary movement and democratic and secular parties.”

Gaddar was accompanied by his wife Vimala, son G.V. Surya Kiran — who joined the Congress this year — the former Congress MP from Telangana, Madhu Goud Yakshi, and former bureaucrat and Rahul aide Kopulla Raju.

Asked about the switch from fighting the “comprador bourgeoisie” Congress to supporting its alliance with the Telugu Desam Party, CPI and the Telangana Jana Samiti, he acknowledged: “I opposed parliamentary democracy because money, the media and the mafia play a key role in it.”

But he added: “I am joining this movement to save the Constitution…. People don’t want to be ruled by fundamentalists. At least the Congress has internal democracy and is not a fundamentalist party.”

In 1972, Gaddar had co-founded the Jana Natya Mandali travelling theatre troupe that became the cultural wing of the CPIML-People’s War, which later merged into the CPI Maoist. He went underground in the late 1980s.

Gaddar picked up 32 languages while working as a cultural organiser and armed squad member, and his performances drew thousands. He has a bullet lodged in his spine — a reminder of a failed assassination bid by unidentified gunmen in 1997.

He remained active in the underground movement till 2010, when he formed the Telangana Praja Front for statehood. He formally renounced his association with the Maoists by registering as a voter last year, started visiting temples, and declared himself an Ambedkarite.

Son Surya Kiran, formerly a researcher at the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Hyderabad, is expected to contest either the Assembly polls or the general election on a Congress ticket. Reports had said Gaddar was interested in contesting from chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao’s Gajwel seat, but on Friday he denied any such plans.

He said he would participate in political meetings in Telangana, where he would awaken people against the crimes of the “rulers of the state and the Centre”.Asked about his opposition to Rao, Gaddar explained: “For 46 years in the movement, we fought feudalism. Today, we see neo-feudalism. Villagers know the feudal lord but do not recognise the neo-feudal exploiter — he who projects himself as a messiah for the peasants but impoverishes them with his policies. It’s just that the mode of exploitation has changed.”

He added: “I asked Rahulji to come to Chhattisgarh where I will stage my play Ladder. He agreed. The play is in Telugu but I will translate it into Hindi and other languages.”

Rahul wrote on Facebook: “Amongst the many issues we discussed, was how to defend our Constitution from the systematic attack by the forces of fascism that seek to undermine it. I look forward to hearing Gaddar sing his songs of revolution and to watch one of the plays he’s scripted sometime in the near future.”

Yakshi, the former MP, said: “We welcome someone who renounces the power of the bullet and puts his faith in the ballot and the Constitution. On the pretext of statehood, KCR re-established the feudal elite in Telangana’s villages. He (Gaddar) would be campaigning against KCR —a smaller Modi--- in Telangana.”