For Maoist chief Prachanda, whose first premiership stint ended after a run-in with the army, life has come full circle as the former guerrilla leader takes over as the Prime Minister for a second time to steer his country marred by deep divisions over the new Constitution.
The career of 61-year-old Pushpa Kamal Dahal — better known by his nom-de-guerre of Prachanda (the fierce one) — has been characterised by his ceaseless battle to turn his country into a socialist-communist people’s republic.
It was for this ideal that he fought a bloody 10-year war against the monarchy, going on to serve a brief stint as prime minister from 2008 to 2009 before a disagreement with the military over his attempt to sack the army chief brought his period in office to an early end.
During the period of monarchy, Prachanda spent years hiding in Nepal’s jungles, directing a guerrilla war against the state that ended with a 2006 peace deal.
He headed the first Maoist-led government in the country. Prachanda also led the former rebels in their decade-long armed struggle against the 240-year-old monarchy.
Remaining underground for 24 years, very little was known about the elusive leader who scripted the 2006 peace process with Nepali Congress patriarch G P Koirala before the former rebels’ surprise victory in the April 10 Constituent Assembly polls.
Prachanda’s elevation comes at a time when the country is battling deep divisions over the country’s new Constitution.
Nepali Congress and CPN Maoist Centre signed a three-point agreement with the Madhesi Front to secure support from the Madhesi parties for their bid to form a new government led by Prachanda, who was the only official candidate for the race.
The Prime Minister’s post had been left vacant since last week after CPN-UML chairman K P Sharma Oli tendered his resignation following the Maoist’s withdrawal of support to the coalition government.
The former guerrilla leader, who was inspired by Peru’s Shining Path communist movement, is known to have an anti-India stance which seems to have softened of late with observers saying that his elevation may be good for Indo-Nepal ties which experienced turbulence under Oli.
Born to Muktiram Dahal and Bhawani Dahal in 1954 in Kashki district in western Nepal, Prachanda entered active politics in 1979 by joining CPN-M.
He became central member of the party in 1985 and elected general secretary of CPN-M in 1990.
Dahal received a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science. He was also a school teacher for four years.
Prachanda became the general secretary of CPN-Maoist in 1995, a year after the party lost all its seats in the polls.
He then became the party’s president in 2000. He was given the title of the Supreme Commander of the People’s Liberation Army, the Maoist guerrilla force in 2001 taking the reins of the party from Baburam Bhattarai.