Kathmandu, August 1
CPN-Maoist Centre Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who led the then Maoist rebels during the decade-long insurgency, is likely to become the new Prime Minister of Nepal.
Dahal, who first assumed office as the country’s chief executive on August 18, 2008, resigned in May 2009 following a row with the President over his government’s decision to oust the Chief of Army Staff Rookmangud Katawal.
During his tenure in office, Dahal wore the traditional ‘bhadgaule’ topi to formal programmes, and preferred wearing suit over daura surwal. Here we sum up his nine-month-long ‘first innings’ in five photographs.
Oath in name of the ‘People’
When results of the first Constituent Assembly came in, it was clear that there was a popular wave in favour of the Maoists. As the largest party in the CA, the Maoists laid claim to the leadership of the government. With support from Madhes-based parties, Prachanda led Nepal’s first majority government after the election of the first CA.
During his oath-taking ceremony, Prachanda refused to take the oath of office in the name of ‘god and the country’, and instead took the oath in the name of the people and the country.
Within hours after the oath, Prachanda received reports of the collapse of a Koshi river embankment resulting in floods that left more than 50,000 people homeless.
‘Unofficial’ visit to China
Prachanda made his first foreign trip to China to attend the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. Although many people, including some functionaries in India, saw this as a departure from the tradition of Nepali Prime Ministers visiting India first, and then going on other trips, Prachanda begged to differ. He said his trip to Beijing was unofficial, and his first official visit would be to India.
‘Official’ visit to India
During his first ‘official’ visit to India, Dahal met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and other senior officials. There was the usual talk of continued support to democracy in Nepal, and agreements on various issues were signed. However, Dahal’s photo with Singh during the ‘official’ visit made it to the front pages the next day!
After the CA elections were over, focus was now on managing the Maoist insurgents. The challenge was to integrate the fighters into the national army, and come up with retirement schemes for those, who wanted to lead a civilian life. But Prime Minister Prachanda, and Defence Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa found it difficult to deal with then army chief Katawal. First it was about the integration process. Second it was about the PLAs’ participation in the national games, and the issues kept piling.
Katawal would become the reason Prachanda would have to leave the office, and the rest is history.
In May 2009, Prachanda announced his resignation in a hastily organised press conference. He criticised the army and the President for not accepting the civilian rule. His party, he said, would take to the streets demanding civilian supremacy.