-  Tuesday 19 January 2021

Maoist leader Prachanda to fight Nepal polls

 -  Indian Muslims

Kathmandu, Jan 16 2008 - The man who started an underground war against Nepal's all-powerful dynasty of kings and once carried a price tag on his head higher than that of Osama bin Laden will now fight Nepal's crucial April election in a bid to replace King Gyanendra.

Pushpa Kamal Dahal, an agriculture graduate who shed his name - which means the lotus flower - to become Prachanda or the Fearsome One and led a relentless 10-year-long guerrilla war against the state, will be contesting the April 10 constituent assembly election.

However, the 58-year-old is giving a wide berth to sunny Chitwan in south Nepal, his home district where a Terai movement has been eating into the Maoist support, and where he is a veritable stranger, having remained underground for over 12 years.

Instead, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is fielding its chairman and supreme commander of its guerrilla army from capital Kathmandu as well as Sindhuli to hedge his chances.

Prachanda, who says he learnt how to fire a gun and make bombs in the border towns of India, aims to eventually become the president of Nepal, a designation that might be created for the first time after the April election.

Nepal, once the world's only Hindu kingdom, became a secular state in 2006 after King Gyanendra's attempt to rule the country with the backing of the army failed.

In another blow to the 239-year-old royal family, last month the new parliament proclaimed the country a republic, effectively relegating the king to the pages of history.

However, enigmatic Nepal continues to remain so, being the only republic now that still has a king.

Though removed from the constitution, the king will face the axe only after the April election.

If the elected assembly endorses the republic proclamation, Gyanendra will have to make way for a presidential system of government.

In an earlier interview, Prachanda had said he would become the president of Nepal if his party willed it.

It would be a meteoric rise for the man who began as a teacher and then founded a new revolutionary philosophy that is called Prachanda Path - the way of Prachanda - by his followers.

Though like Chinese leader Mao Zedong, Prachanda advocates seizing power through an armed movement, he also revealed a different side to the movement two years ago when his men joined a non-violent anti-king protest along with the opposition parties and forced the omnipotent king to surrender power.

In 2001, after the government outlawed the Maoists, a reward of Nepalese Rs.5 million (about ,000) was offered for his capture, alive or dead.

Adept at disguises, the Maoist chief eluded his pursuers and surfaced in public only in 2006, after the end of the royal regime.

Once known to have ridden horses to move at night through the mountainous roads of Nepal, he now enjoys a different lifestyle, credited with using luxury pens, watches and cars.

Besides Prachanda, other Maoist stalwarts, many of them once hunted by Interpol, are also set to fight the polls, including C.P. Gajural, who was jailed in India for trying to fly out to Germany from Chennai airport on a fake passport.

The Maoists had opposed general elections since the late 90s, forcing a succession of governments to cancel them.

However, the reform started last year when they returned to parliament shepherded by the new government of opposition parties whom they had helped come to power and finally, joined the cabinet in April.

Though they quit the government last September, following negotiations they returned in December and have now pledged to take part in the constituent assembly election in which Prachanda will be a candidate.

Source : Indian Muslims

Other articles by reporter Indian Muslims

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