NEPAL’S top Maoist politician, who led a 10-year insurgency which left 16,000 people dead, has been accused of selling out and moving into a lavish mansion.
Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who goes by the nom-de-guerre Prachanda (The Fierce One), is a former Communist guerrilla who rose from humble village beginnings to lead a “people’s war” against Nepal’s royal family and its political elites.
The rented 15-room property – 1500 square metres of prime real estate near the bustling centre of Kathmandu – includes parking space for more than a dozen vehicles and a table tennis room, his office said.
“The Maoists have deviated from their stated goal. It used to be socialism but now they have surrendered to bourgeois state power,” said Mumaram Khanal, a political analyst and former Maoist leader.
“It is natural in such a situation to transform into someone with the characteristics of a member of parliamentary politics. They are revolutionary only in words, not in deeds.”
Prachanda, 58, grew up in a family of farmers in southern Nepal, teaching in government schools before being indoctrinated in socialist philosophy by Nepal’s communist leaders.
In 1996, after witnessing the plight of the poor in the village where he grew up, he led a Maoist insurgency which culminated in the overthrow of the Shah dynasty in 2008.
He was later elected prime minister for a brief spell and is now the chairman of the ruling Maoists and a lawmaker representing a constituency in Kathmandu.
Prachanda’s personal assistant, Samir Dahal, said the politician had been advised of “security concerns” over his old residence.
“Moreover, the public bus station was nearby and several houses were under construction in the area,” the aide added.
The new mansion costs the Maoist party just over 100,000 rupees ($1200) a month, the aide said, a modest sum in many countries but almost three times the average annual income in Nepal.
Local media have reported that the landlord lives in Canada, while the aide confirmed that over 70 security guards provided by the government are housed in the complex.
“Prachanda has a penchant for lavish lifestyle, good food and other fine things in life. It may be that he was deprived of this in his youth,” Mr Khanal, the political analyst, added.
“Now in power, he wants to accumulate wealth and live in luxury. The house he has chosen is testament to this.”
The Republica newspaper said in a scathing editorial that many families “making do in dank and dark two-room lodgings” would be questioning “the communist credentials of the ‘leader of the proletariats'”.
The xNepali community blog carried a post supporting Prachanda’s right to move into a bigger house but criticising him for not being more open about the rent arrangements.
Across the border, the Indian Express quoted a senior Maoist source saying: “This only confirms the fear expressed by Maoist vice-chairman Mohan Baidhya Kiran that Prachanda has failed to honour the issue of probity in public life.”