Prachanda (Pushpa Kamal Dahal)

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The Times of India, August 4, 2016, Aug 04 2016

Nepal's Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal spent years hiding out in the jungle directing a guerrilla war against the state, before transforming his Maoist revolutionary movement into a political party.

The charismatic 61-yearold -better known by his nom-de-guerre Prachanda (the fierce one) -recruited thousands into his Maoist army with a rousing call to end centuries of feudal inequality and overthrow a 240-year-old monarchy . The ten-year insurgency he led brought the Nepalese state to its knees as the Maoists won control of large swathes of countryside.

After a 2006 peace agreement, the father-of-four made a triumphant entry into politics, becoming PM for the first time after his party won elections in 2008. But he resigned just nine months later after the president blocked his efforts to sack the army chief in a row over the integration of former Maoist fighters.

Prachanda was born a Brahmin, but his family was poor. The poverty he witnessed spurred an interest in farleft ideology and he joined a communist party in 1980 at the age of 25. He worked as a teacher, but gradually became convinced that an armed insurgency was the only way to bring radical change to one of the world's poorest countries.Inspired by China's cultural revolution, he launched the “People's War“ in 1996.

In recent years, however, many former guerrillas have quit the party , accusing Prachanda of betraying their sacrifices. He has come under fire for his lavish lifestyle, notably when it emerged that he had rented a sprawling estate in Kathmandu that includes a 15-room mansion.

Another scandal erupted when the Maoist-led government acknowledged offering $250,000 to fund an Everest ex pedition by Prachanda's son Prakash. “He began to be seen as (someone) attracted to not just money and power but also to people outside the movement who were rich and powerful,“ said Aditya Adhikari, a politics expert. His fondness for luxury saw support for the Maoists plummet and the party won just 80 out of 575 seats in the 2013 national polls.

In a bid to strengthen his hand, he joined with hardline Maoist splinter groups to form a new political party in May , withdrawing his support from the coalition government. “Last time, I was inexperienced. We still had a war mindset from the insurgency years. Now, after 10 years in open politics, I have learnt the rules of competitive democracy ,“ he said.

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