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Quitting PM post another turn in Prachanda's dramatic journey

Once professing guns as the only means to radically change his country, Maoist chief Prachanda rose to become Nepal's first post-monarchy premier through the ballot box but now faces an uncertain future after being forced out of power by his more seasoned political rivals.

world Updated: May 04, 2009 20:45 IST

Once professing guns as the only means to radically change his country, Maoist chief Prachanda rose to become Nepal's first post-monarchy premier through the ballot box but now faces an uncertain future after being forced out of power by his more seasoned political rivals.

With 54-year-old former school-teacher announcing his resignation today after the President blocked his move to replace the army chief with a loyalist general, the nascent republic plunged into a political turmoil and the spectre of renewed Maoist unrest loomed large.

Known as Chhabilal Dahal in his schooldays which he changed to Pushpa Kamal Dahal, he had headed the country's first Maoist-led government for eight months but faced a series of hiccups, with the latest being the months-long tussle with army chief Rukmangad Katawal over integration of Maoist combatants into the regular army.

Prolonged agitations by indigenous ethnic minorities, uneasy relations with India and failure to get international support due to its continuing acts of violence by his cadres despite signing a peace deal had plagued his administration.

While announcing his resignation through a televised address to the nation, Prachanda admitted that the government could not perform upto the expectations of people.

New to the political intricacies in Kathmandu, the former rebels were outsmarted repeatedly by more seasoned rivals like Nepali Congress which earlier scuttled its effort to get its candidate elected as the country's President.

The Maoist leader got his nom-de-guerre of Prachanda (the fierce one) for leading the former rebels in their decade-long armed struggle against the 240-year-old monarchy.

Remaining underground for 24 years, he scripted the 2006 peace process with Nepali Congress patriarch G P Koirala before the former rebels' surprise victory in the April 10 Constituent Assembly polls.

Projecting himself first as the President, he later settled for the post of Prime Minister but that too appeared in jeopardy for some time after the defeat of the Maoist candidate in the presidential poll, attributed to fears among parties about the real intentions of the Maoists who till recently aspired for a communist republic.

But a last-minute manoeuvring saw the Maoists win the support of another communist party CPN (UML) and Madhesi People's Rights Forum, a party of ethnic Indians. The Prachanda-led government was formed in August last year.

Known for his strident anti-India stand, Prachanda had been adamant on scrapping the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950 to be replaced by a new one. He also broke with the tradition to visit China first after taking over instead of coming to India.

Despite his declaration that of maintaining equidistance from both the giant neighbours, India has been wary of his growing closeness with Beijing.

Born to Muktiram Dahal and Bhawani Dahal in 1954 in Kashki district in western Nepal, Prachanda entered active politics in 1979 by joining CPN-M.

Prachanda became central member of the party in 1985 and elected general secretary of CPN-M in 1990. The Maoist party had participated in the 1991 Parliamentary Election under the name of Janamorcha Nepal and won nine seats.

He received a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science and worked for USAID-sponsored rural development project. He was also a school teacher for four years. Prachanda was married to Sita Poudyal in 1969 and has three daughters and a son.

Prachanda became the general secretary of CPN-Maoist in 1995, a year after the party lost all its seats in the polls. He then became the party's president in 2000. He was given the title of the Supreme Commander of the People's Liberation Army, the Maoist guerrilla force in 2001 taking the reins of the party from Baburam Bhattarai.

The Maoists launched the armed struggle in 2006 after the then prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba rejected a 40-point demand of the party.

Deuba also announced a bounty of $60,000 on his head as fighting claimed 13,000 lives and Maoists established a parallel government in the country's vast rural areas.

In November 2003, international police agency Interpol issued arrest warrants for 11 top Maoist leaders, including Prachanda and Bhattarai after peace talks collapsed.

However, the February 2005 takeover by King Gyanendra brought the Maoists close to the alliance of seven mainstream parties. The Maoists called for ceasefire in 2006 and took part in the massive public protests in April that year that forced Gyanendra to reinstate the Assembly.