▪ 2009
Pushpa Kamal Dahal 
born Dec. 11, 1954, Lewadi, Nepal

 On Aug. 15, 2008, Prachanda, former leader of the 11-year Maoist insurgency, was elected the first prime minister of the new republic of Nepal by the Constituent Assembly, securing 464 of the 577 votes cast. Under Prachanda's leadership, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) had won 220 seats to become the single largest party in the Assembly when it was voted into office on April 10. As prime minister, Prachanda, who had no previous experience with parliamentary politics, was faced with the task of rebuilding his country.

      He was born into a poor farming family in the mountainous Kaski district of central Nepal. At the age of 11 he moved with his family to Chitwan district, where a schoolteacher indoctrinated him in communism. In 1975 he graduated from the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science in Rampur, Chitwan district. He continued to work in the Communist Party.

      In 1980 Prachanda (a nom de guerre meaning “fierce”) was charged with leading the All Nepal National Free Students' Union (Revolutionary), which was affiliated with the radical Communist Party of Nepal (Masal [“flame” in Nepalese]). In 1983 he was elected to the central committee of the CPN (Masal), which soon split into the CPN (Masal) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Fourth Convention). CPN (Masal) divided again (1985) into CPN (Masal) and CPN (Mashal [“flame” in Sanskrit]). Prachanda joined the latter, becoming a member of the politburo and rising to the position of general secretary in 1989. Several leftist parties merged in 1990 to form the Communist Party of Nepal (Unity Centre), with Prachanda as a general secretary, but in 1994 it also split in two. In March 1995 Prachanda renamed his branch to reflect its Maoist leanings.

      The Maoist party launched its insurgent campaign to abolish the monarchy with an attack on several police stations on Feb. 13, 1996. During 10 years of insurgency, Prachanda remained underground, spending 8 of those years in India. Though the campaign led by Prachanda did not enjoy consistent good fortune, it was ultimately successful in its goal of ending Nepal's 237-year-old monarchy.

      Because Prachanda had spent nearly his entire career underground, he at first held little political appeal for the Nepalese public, which tended to view him with suspicion. After his June 2006 public appearance in a meeting with then prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala and opposition leaders to negotiate the creation of the country's new government, however, his popularity began to increase. From the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in November 2006, the CPN (Maoist) sought to have Prachanda installed as the head of the new government, a campaign that succeeded less than two years later.

Keshab Poudel

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Universalium. 2010.

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