As the hostage crisis continues to linger,intelligence officers are pondering whether Sabyasachi Panda,the secretary of Orissa State Organising Committee of CPI(Maoist),with Rs 20 lakh reward on his head,is a lone ranger in the outfit.
The 5 ft 10 inch tall and lean Panda is a bit of maverick within the party and is known to be whimsical and short-tempered. The killing of VHP leader Laxmanananda Saraswati in August 2008 that led to riots in Kandhamal,earned him the opprobrium of the Maoist high command as he found himself expelled for some time.
Since then it has been downhill for Panda,a mathematics graduate who joined the rebel ranks in the early nineties inspired by late Nagabhushan Patnaik of CPI(Marxist-Leninist). Sources said that he has been feeling utterly uncomfortable after central committee member Manoj alias Modem Balakrishna was made the in-charge of Orissa about a year ago. A rebel by nature,Panda has been resentful the way the party has rode roughshod over him. Pandas demotion came after several cadres left the outfit accusing him of womanising and being authoritarian.
Officials in the state police said that in all likelihood the abduction of the two foreigners did not have the backing of the central committee as intelligence evidences showed lack of interest by the Telugu and Chhattisgarhi-dominated central committee in the hostage issue. Why did Panda wait for two days to issue a press release about the abduction? In Vineel Krishna case,posters started appearing all over Malkangiri and Koraput just a few hours after he was abducted, said a senior official,observing the developments. The whole abduction seems ill-planned and looks more like an act of a man who is desperate. He knows it well that the central committee would not approve of the abduction of foreigners,but he did it hoping that it would work for him. After all,the central committee used the pressure of international community to get Dr Binayak Sen released from jail. He is a man who is clearly frustrated.
Sources said that Panda seems to be missing his mentor Mallojula Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji who was killed in the jungles of West Bengal in November 2011. It was Kishenji who saved Panda from getting punishment for his past mistakes.
The officials said the wish-list of Panda appears to be more personal than ideological as he has demanded release of his wife Subhashree Das,his associate Gananath Patra and some Oriya Maoists. He is silent about release of Ghasi alias Chenda Bhushanam,a top Maoist of Andhra Orissa Border Special Zonal Committee,who was arrested last year. He did not say anything about the release of Girish Mahato,another senior Maoist leader. Importantly,he did not demand that the mother of Dunna Kesava Rao alias Azad,his one time deputy,be allowed to meet her son in Bhubaneswar jail. All this raises questions about Pandas true intentions, said the official.
The police do not rule out the abduction as a drama enacted by Panda to gloss over his failures in his own base of Kandhamal and Gajapati where he could not get a single tribal recruit despite killing Laxmanananda Saraswati. While Dalit Christians,who formed his support base,left him soon after the riots,the tribals did not join him as he had anticipated. As an afterthought,last month he said that killing Saraswati was a mistake. He also said that killing former Umerkote BJD MLA Jagabandhu Majhi was a mistake too,fully knowing that it was done by the Dandakaranya division of Maoists. He perhaps thought that by condemning the killing of Majhi,he could endear himself to the tribals, said an official.
Apart from this,Pandas womanising ways have led to problems in the outfit with cadres leaving the organisation. In fact,he reportedly has a security team comprising mostly women. In January,Panda reportedly killed his deputy Rabi alias Kailash Majhi in Daringibadi forests after the latter protested against keeping his companion Jyoti in the security team and not allowing them to marry. Rabi was labelled a police informer and killed.