From Chhabilal to Pushpa Kamal to Prachanda (Profile)

August 15th, 2008 - 9:56 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Aug 15 (IANS) When Chhabilal Dahal was born to a Brahmin farmer’s family in southern Chitwan district on Dec 11, 1954, no one could predict the mewling baby would one day oust Nepal’s omnipotent royal dynasty and transform the laidback Hindu Himalayan kingdom into a secular federal republic. When Chhabilal was in school, his biology teacher praised his cherubic looks and told him he looked like a flower.

The new name given by the teacher - Pushpa Kamal, meaning the lotus - was so much liked by the young pupil that he decided to change his name to Pushpa Kamal.

After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture from the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science in Rampur, Pushpa Kamal first taught in a local school and then, for some time, worked on a project funded by the American government’s USAID agency.

Prachanda joined the communist movement led by veteran communist leader Pushpa Lal but after a series of divisions in the communist party, formed the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).

Though the party took part in the general election once, it went underground on Feb 13, 1996, waging a 10-year people’s war to overthrow the two centuries old monarchy and establish a communist republic.

During the war, Dahal took a new name - Prachanda - meaning awesome as he headed the guerrilla People’s Liberation Army.

“I learnt how to make bombs and fire a gun in Bihar,” Prachanda said after his party came overground following the fall of King Gyanendra’s regime in 2006 and signing a peace paxt with the opposition parties.

In April 2008, the Maoists fought the first constituent assembly election and emerged as the largest party in a surprise victory.

Prachanda himself won from two constituencies - Kathmandu and Rolpa, the red district from where the Maoists had launched their war.

However, despite garnering the largest number of votes, the Maoists failed to get a simple majority and had to wait for the support of other major parties for coming to power.

Prachanda also becomes the first prime minister of Nepal who is still the chief of a guerrilla army.

Married as a teenager, he has three daughters and a son, all of whom are members of the Maoist party. While his son Prakash is his father’s bodyguard, his wife Sita Poudel is the central advisor of the party while one of his daughters is a lawmaker.

After spending 25 years underground with a price tag on his head, Prachanda now becomes the most powerful man in Nepal.

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