The rise and fall of ‘rebel leader’ Prachanda

The leader of a political party that once claimed to be the messiah of the proletariat is now reduced to a symbol of opportunism and malpractices.

Nishan Khatiwada

  • Read Time 5 min.

Kathmandu: It was not a long time ago. During the insurgency period, ideologues of the CPN (Maoist) used to appreciate “Prachanda Path” as a fundamental tenet for the emancipation of the ‘proletariat’ of Nepal. 

For a long time, Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, now Chairman of CPN (Maoist Center), went underground, leaving a big question: Who was he? His identity was a mystery. Whether he was just an imaginary character created by the Maoist leaders, or he actually existed was a matter of curiosity for many Nepalis then.

But Prachanda was real. He made himself public. The peace agreement was signed between the government and the Maoist in 2006, ending a decade-long insurgency.

Thereafter began the post-civil war era in Nepal, or more precisely, the Maoist era in mainstream politics. Walls in cities, painted red, were eye-catching. The murals of Prachanda with a fist hand, and graffiti describing ‘Prachanda Path’ made Nepal all red. It was a time when the people were despondent over the inefficiency of conventional politicians, and the Maoists seemed to be the only hope. All eyes were on them. 

Once termed as a ‘terrorist’ outfit by the government, Prachanda and his party gained trust in no time. After they joined mainstream politics and fought in the elections, the Maoists swept votes, defeating old and big parties–Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML. 

Despite their hands in extra-judicial killings, human rights violation and excess of violence committed during the war era (the state side was also culpable), Nepali people gave them a chance. In the first Constituent Assembly elections, they emerged as the biggest party winning 229 seats.

The ‘rebel leader’ came to power. But the government formed after a decade-long insurgency took no time to disappoint people. In no time, Prachanda was seen as deceiving the proletariat whose cause he claimed to champion during the insurgency.

The lifestyle of rebel leaders, who fought to abolish monarchy and promised to transform Nepal socially, politically and economically, changed in no time. They started to live in expensive houses, seek treatment abroad.

The so-called leader of the proletariat didn’t speak a word against it. Prachanda himself was accused of embezzling funds meant for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) management.   

The man who led the decade-long insurgency is now questioning the relevance of his party. He often mentions in public if it is time to dissolve the CPN (Maoist Center). He blames other leaders for deviating from ideology and embracing lavish and luxurious lifestyles, while he himself has lived in luxury unimagined by the common Nepalis, all these years.  

People have begun to question the relevance of the insurgency, the party itself and have started to speak out about the deaths of more than 17,000 people during the insurgency. People have stopped taking his public statements seriously.

Abandoned by comrades 

Baburam Bhattarai, the ideological leader of CPN (Maoist) since the beginning of the civil war, stopped supporting him in 2015. Mohan Vaidya, the Guru of CPN Maoist, did the same. Ram Bahadur Thapa ‘Badal’, the veteran Maoist fighter, has now joined hands with the rival communist party, CPN-UML. Netra Bikram Chand, who had backed ‘Prachanda’ during the insurgency, has now parted ways. All these leaders have blamed ‘Prachanda’ for deviating from his own political ideology. Moreover, he has been repeatedly accused of promoting corruption even by his party patrons and leaders of other political parties.

The so-called ‘Prachanda Path’ is now taken as a lost cause, rather a wrong cause. Though the CPN (Maoist) came to power multiple times, neither could it change the face of the country nor could it gain the trust of the people. 

Baburam Bhattarai (L) and Prachanda share a stage. (File photo/NL Today)

Many towering leaders of then CPN-Maoist have left the party, leaving a big question mark on the relevancy of civil war and the party’s ideology.

In 2017, Prachanda decided to go for a merger with the CPN-UML to form the biggest communist party of Nepal. Apparently to become the president of the biggest communist party and share power with KP Oli in government, Prachanda gave up on Maoist ideology. 

He justified the merger of Maoist party and CPN-UML as the move to ‘change the face of the country.’ Now he talks about the need for a new revolution to achieve that goal but nobody believes in it.  Once the biggest party in the first Constituent Assembly, his party is ‘third’ in rank in parliament. 

Falling from grace

Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, the ‘Hero’ during the early insurgency years whose ‘Prachanda Path’ was blindly followed by CPN Maoist cadres and leaders, looks like a diminished political figure.  

The situation has turned upside down for him. The Maoist supremo, of late, has been whining that his party and confidantes are going out of his hands. He seems to feel his political future is so insecure. His political position and strength has declined considerably after 2008, when he became the prime minister for the first time. 

Once a fierce face in Nepali politics, ‘Prachanda’, has started giving  ‘silly statements’ quite regularly, and he still says “No political parties are capable of changing the face of Nepal except Maoist”, though Maoist leaders themselves seem to have given up on Maoist ideology for quite a while.

At the August 16 Central Committee meeting, Prachanda called for reforms within the party. He said, “Current activities, if not stopped, will deteriorate the relevancy of the party.” 

The Maoist supremo, of late, has been whining that his party and confidantes are going out of his hands. He seems to feel his political future is so insecure.

Furthermore, speaking at a program on September 30, he said ‘the situation has appeared to decide whether I quit and commit suicide or fight.’  ‘Do or die’ time has arrived, he says. On October 2, Prachanda alerted the youths in his party stating that CPN UML was planning attacks on them. Recently, he has also been proposing the unity of all the Maoists who were splintered over time. 

Prachanda was lamenting that the situation inside the party had started to go out of control, as almost all of the leaders asked for ministerial positions. This depicts the degree of the growth of opportunism within the party and how Prachanda, the supremo, is losing his control over the growing opportunism. 

Costs of deviation

It now appears that Prachanda and CPN (Maoist Center) are in the political game devoid of any concrete ideologies. He seems to be among the least trusted leaders. The promises made to the people, during the ten-years long civil war, have not been fulfilled. The believers of the Maoist supremo and the people who lost their lives for the Maoist movement are betrayed. 

Prachanda is also blamed for promoting nepotism, as his relatives and family have already occupied (sometimes even misused and exploited) many prominent places in the bureaucracy and politics. Prachanda’s daughter-in-law, once minister of water supply, was accused of corruption and malpractices. 

When ideology is given up for reasons such as practical and personal failure, people get engaged in activities such as nepotism and corruption. Political analyst and columnist CK Lal sums it up: “It is clear that Prachanda has already deviated from his ideology and principle. He left his leftist principle back in 2008 on the pretext of the CA election. Next he left the implementation of federalism and inclusion, which was another major agenda, in 2015.”

How ‘Prachanda Path’, once propagated as a vision to change Nepal, degenerated into a road to cronyism, corruption, and rent-seeking.

According to him, Prachanda has been facing fast degradation in his political assets: ideology, structure, personal image, and public relations. Strategy and action plan (Karyaniti) both have failed, resulting in his loss of connection with people and ultimately the organized group. “So, Prachanda is playing the game of opportunism; where the interests fit, the party ties up there,” said Lal. 

Opportunism and ideological and ethical erosion is so dominant in the CPN Maoist that Prachanda fears other prominent leaders will abandon him any time to serve their vested political interests. 

Has the Maoist supremo’s relevance come to an end? Time will tell. But what is obvious is he himself created this fate and he is facing the consequences.