Who is Nepal’s new PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’? 9 facts you should know

CPN-Maoist Centre leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda'
CPN-Maoist Centre leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’

In an interesting turn of events, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, most popularly known as Prachanda, has become the new prime minister of Nepal.  This is the third time the chair of the CPN-Maoist Centre will lead the country, the first two being in 2008 and 2016.

Leaving the coalition led by Nepali Congress due to disputes regarding who will become the prime minister first, Dahal, on Sunday, once again joined forces with the KP Sharma Oli even after a bittersweet ending of the Nepal Communist Party.

Dahal or Prachanda is not the most popular leader in the country, but despite his party only securing 32 seats in the House of Representatives, he has become the prime minister of the country which goes to show the power play he can be a part of the country’s developing (or frustrating) political scene.

Let us take a look at some interesting facts about the Maoist leader and see what makes him stand out:

1. The instigator of the people’s war

In a bid to make the country a fair and just place for the poor and working class, Prachanda announced a people’s war in a bid to abolish the monarchy. He formed a “people’s army” from the marginalised areas of the country and attacked seven police stations and army camps taking over major parts of western Nepal. The war went on for 10 years and over 17,000 people died, but his goal to end Nepal’s 237-year-old monarchy was a success as Nepal’s King Gyanendra Shah was overthrown and Nepal became a republic.

2. The guerrilla warrior who never took part in fighting

Many believe Prachanda was the brains behind the entire war as they claim they never saw him pick up a gun. He was rarely seen in his combat dress or with a gun in hand. What he was good at was his orations. There are several videos on YouTube where thousands of people have assembled to hear Dahal speak. His oration was such that people say they got goosebumps and were ready to die for his cause.

File: Pushpa Kamal Dahal better known as Prachanda
File: Pushpa Kamal Dahal is better known as Prachanda

3. The first prime minister of the republic of Nepal

After the ceasefire in 2006, Prachanda and his party became a household name. When they contested in the 2008 general elections in the country, they received the highest popular votes in the country as even people from Kathmandu voted for them. Following that, he became the first prime minister of the republic of Nepal even though his group was still considered a terrorist in the United States of America.

4. ‘President on the wall’

After the war, Prachanda wanted to end the Westminster parliamentary system and adopt a directly elected presidential system. He had been telling this to his comrades for years. Prior to the 2008 elections, his followers even put up posters making a case for him to become the president of federal Nepal. But that failed and people called him bhitte rastrapati (a President on the wall).

5. Irresistible fear of loss

Prachanda has also never repeated a constituency while contesting the elections except once in 2013. In his first elections, he contested from Kathmandu and Rolpa; in 2013, he contested from Kathmandu and Sarlahi; in 2017, from Chitwan and in 2022, he decided to contest the elections from Gorkha. If this is a masterstroke or if it is a fear of losing is an answer only he can give.

6. Terrible first term

His first term as the prime minister ended on a bittersweet note after he fired the Chief of Army Staff, Rookmangud Katawal, due to a dispute over the integration of former rebel fighters into the army. That caused major issues as the move was unconstitutional. Katawal was reinstated by President Ram Baran Yadav, after which the prime minister came under moral pressure to resign.

7. Slap on his face

In 2012, Padam Kunwar slapped Prachanda at a party event. Kunwar had said he slapped him because of what the Maoist party had become and how Dahal had drifted away from his beliefs and betrayed people like him. The public considered Kunwar a hero.

Prachanda has proved himself to be a strategic political player in contemporary politics.

8. Ultimate opportunist

Prachanda has always been an ultimate opportunist as he has always ended up in a power position despite claiming to be the victim. His critics say he is self-centred and clever and will leave his closest aides behind if it benefits him. This can be seen by his recent actions in leaving the Nepali Congress-led coalition along with his past actions and the manner in which he abandoned Mohan Biadya, Netra Bikram Chand and Baburam Bhattarai.

9. Political player

Many had claimed the Maoists were an irrelevant party as they only won 32 out of the 275 seats in the House of Representatives. It is the third-largest party behind the Nepali Congress and the UML. But leaving all that aside, Prachanda twisted politics in such a way that he will be serving his third term as the prime minister of the country.

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