“Of all the things I am going through, you only noticed my new way of dressing?” Gaddar retorted to a question from The Indian Express. In a colourful tie, crisp trousers and full-sleeved shirt, clean-shaven and sporting a watch on his right wrist, the Telangana balladeer and revolutionary poet was at a talk organised by the Telangana Samajika Nyaya Joint Action Committee and the Telangana Students’ Union, on Wednesday, on alleged atrocities by police in Sircilla district against villagers opposing sand trucks.
The change of attire, from his trademark dhoti, red shawl and wooden staff, was yet another sign of Gaddar aka Gummadi Vithal Rao’s transformation over the past year, amidst rumours that he is planning to join politics. Gaddar, 71, confirmed it Wednesday, saying he is looking to forge an alliance with non-political organisations for entering mainstream politics. He wants to use elections as a mechanism for change, he said. “I want to be the catalyst for change in Telangana.”
Once the prospect of the Maoist ideologue joining politics or contesting elections would have been unthinkable — Maoists oppose the State in every form. His new plans, though, have not drawn any response from them.
Gaddar has dropped hints that one of his allies could be actor Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena party, if it enters the electoral fray. However, he has also attended programmes organised by the Telangana unit of the BJP over Dalit issues, and is backing the CPM-supported Telangana Mass and Social Organisations Forum — an organisation of 272 social and cultural associations that aims to fight for social justice and citizens’ rights. Gaddar is also actively involved with Prof B Kodandaram, the convenor of the Telangana Joint Action Committee.
On the other hand, he is less critical of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) government and Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, apart from saying that social justice still eludes Telangana. Last June, the government had given him land in Malkajgiri at market price to construct a community hall for the poor.
Last year, Gaddar also started the Dr Chandrakiran Palamuru Yuvajana Sangam in memory of his son who died in 2003.
Most of Gaddar’s programmes are now those organised by non-political organisations and address issues such as oppression of marginalised communities, Dalit rights, and farmers’ issues.
In another break from his Maoist links, Gaddar in March visited the Yadadri temple. The Maoists issued a veiled warning as photos of Gaddar being blessed by a priest reportedly turned up in a police anti-Maoist campaign in Andhra Pradesh.
However, Gaddar would rather not talk in detail yet about his plans, or even about his new attire. Questioned about it, he told The Indian Express, “These days I am attending programmes and functions where this attire is more suitable.”