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Prachanda faces uphill battle to repeat 2008 win in poll-bound Nepal

world Updated: Nov 07, 2013 20:30 IST
Utpal Parashar
Utpal Parashar
Hindustan Times
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In poll-bound Nepal, former prime minister and Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' on Wednesday began a national awareness programme to woo voters.

Nepal goes to polls on November 19 to elect its second Constituent Assembly since the abolition of the country's 240-year-old monarchy in 2008.

Prachanda faces an uphill battle to not just repeat his party's unexpected 2008 election victory but also win a majority of seats so as to draft a new constitution.

"The constitution will be drafted only if the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) gets a clear majority," he said.

In the 2008 elections - less than two years after Maoists joined the political mainstream following a 10-year civil war - Prachanda's party surprised all by bagging 220 seats.

It was double the number of seats won by the rival Nepali Congress, but below the halfway-mark in the country's 601-member Constituent Assembly-cum-parliament.

His party headed the government twice with outside support, but failed to draft a new constitution leading to the Constituent Assembly's dissolution in 2012.

Prachanda attributes the debacle to lack of support from his party's two main rivals, Nepali Congress and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist).

This time, the Maoist chief is bent on attaining a majority so that his party can not only draft the constitution but also restructure Nepal into federal states.

On Wednesday, Prachanda along with senior leaders Baburam Bhattarai and Narayan Kaji Shrestha addressed 10 election meetings in eastern Nepal as part of the eight-day election campaign that began at Kakarbhitta.

He will address 40 more such rallies before the campaign ends at Mahendranagar in western Nepal.

Prachanda's party had suffered a blow after Mohan Baidya split from the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) last year to form the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist.

Baidya is leading a 33-party alliance of parties that are boycotting the elections. His cadres have been disrupting Prachanda's poll rallies, and have attacked candidates and their vehicles at several places.

Unlike the last elections, however, Prachanda has enough funds and an organised party structure to run a successful poll campaign.

But with Baidya's departure and a general decline in Prachanda's credibility in Nepal over the past five years, it is a difficult road ahead for the former prime minister to return to power.