From the hinterlands to Singha Durbar: A perspective on PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal


From Chhabi Lal to Prachanda

Pushpa Kamal Dahal was born to Mukti Ram Dahal and Bhawani Dahal on December 11, 1954 in Dikhur Pokhari, Kaski.

Dahal alias Prachanda completed his schooling in 1969 from Chitwan’s Narayani Bidhya Mandir. In 1972, he completed his ISc from Patan Multiple Campus and BSc in 1979 from Chitwan’s Rampur Agriculture Campus.

Prachanda changed his birth name Chhabilal Dahal to Pushpa Kamal Dahal while he was studying in grade 10. Prachanda, who remained underground for 25 years, was also known by his other names like Kalyan, Biswas and Nirman in the party.

In the year 1962, the Dahal family migrated to Chitwan’s Shiva Nagar. Here, at the age of 15, Prachanda was married to Sita Paudel with whom he has three daughters and a son.

Dahal’s son Prakash, who resides at their Lazimpat residence, is an aide to Dahal. Prakash’s sister Renu is also politically active within the party.

Before entering politics, Prachanda was a teacher. In 1972, he taught at a school in Chitwan’s Shiva Nagar. From the year 1976 to 1978, Dahal was a teacher at Nawalparasi’s Danda Higher Secondary School and Gorkha’s Bhimodaya Higher Secondary School. In 1975, Dahal was working for USAID. In between jobs, he even gave a serious thought at joining the Royal Nepal Army. But this never came into being.


At war

The year 1971 marked the inception of Prachanda’s political career. That year, he joined the Communist Party founded by Pushpa Lal as a general member.

In 1974, Dahal formed a Marxist study group. Three years later, he joined the Nirmal Lama and Mohan Bikram Singh led Communist Party of Nepal. Dahal, who had previously worked as an educator, was fully involved in Nepali politics by 1978.

The following years saw Dahal rising from the ranks of a member of the party’s Chitwan district committee in 1979 to being a member of the regional bureau in 1981. Two years later, he was named the General Secretary of All Nepal Youth Association. In 1984, Dahal was nominated as the central-committee member of Communist Party of Nepal (Mashal) and then as its politbureau member in 1989.

When Mohan Baidya was involved in the Sector scandal, Dahal was named the acting General Secretary in 1989. Two years later, he became the General Secretary of CPN (Unity Centre).

In 1994, the CPN (Unity Centre) became CPN (Maoist). One year later, the party led an armed revolt under Dahal’s leadership. Dahal was named the Chair of CPN (Maoist) in 2000. A year later, he became the commander of the People’s Liberation Army.

It was only in 2006 that Dahal made himself visible to the general public through a press conference held at Baluwatar. In 2009, Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda became the first prime minister of the Republic of Nepal.

A collection of essays authored by Prachanda has also been published. A three part series titled ‘Nepali Krantika Samasyaharu’ and a collective of Dahal’s other writings have been published till now.



Prachanda’s strong suit

Amongst Prime Minister Dahal’s strong suits, his way with words and a flexibility to adapt to changing situation is widely acknowledged.

Dahal is not stubborn. He is decisive and holds the ability to accept challenges all the while easily accepting the shortcomings and mistakes.

Whether it was to start the armed revolt or to bring it to a conclusion with the peace agreement, Prachanda was faced with challenging decisions. It is said that a leader should have a clear vision and the practical skills to realise it. Prachanda possesses both.

Being one of the few remaining politicians to sign the peace agreement with Girija Prasad Koirala makes Prachanda a revered Nepali politician. Countries like India and China, among others, view Dahal as a politician with a major stake in national politics.

As someone who has led his party through a revolt, Prachanda holds an enviable leadership quality. Even though his party’s strength has gone down in recent years, it can be safely said that Dahal is an ambitious leader. If Dahal derives strength from his ambition, decisive nature and his revolutionary past, he holds a lot of prospect in Nepali politics.


His limitations

In recent years, however, Prachanda’s strengths has slowly been limited in the face of the changing political scenario of the country.

Most have perceived his dynamic thinking and a changing mindview as his limitation. This has led to Tulsi Giri calling him “someone with no fixed perspective” in the past.

If Prachanda was adamant in his thoughts, he would have probably been killed already during the revolt. Or, he would probably be serving time in prison now. There is also the possibility of him still revolting from the jungles like India’s Naxalites.

But he did not.

Still, with all the upheavals faced by the party and all the hard decisions he had to make during the years leading to the peace agreement, makes it natural for most to question his ever-changing mindview. Not having a fixed view on the Janajatis and Madhesis for one can be viewed as his weak suits.

Prachanda holds the belief that politics is a game of possibilities, not something that is based on the power of the people. It is his limitation in failing to understand that being aloof from the people restricts the possibilities in politics.


Body bag and other burdens

Prachanda’s revolutionary past is inseparable from his political career. Compared to his contemporaries, Prachanda holds the baggage of all the lives lost during the decade-long war.

Even at the present, Prachanda is faced with challenges, which, if not tackled willfully, can damage his entire political career.

On one hand, Prachand faces an ever small number of votes in the party election, while on the other, he faces major challenges like the implementation of the Constitution.

He will have to face major political forces like CPN-UML and address the issues of Madhesis.

Its is not only his party that has fallen weak. Prachanda also lacks supporters. In this context, it seems as if for Prachanda, the challenges of the present will be more pressing than the ghosts of his past.

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