Maoist leader Prachanda, whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal, was elected prime minister of Nepal, a country where he was once considered a dissident and terrorist. This is the first PM since the abolition of the monarchy.
The new prime minister of Nepal was, until two years ago, a terrorist with a price on his head.
Pushpa Kamal Dahal -- known as Prachanda or "the fierce one" -- spent decades hiding in Nepal's jungles and hills, directing a guerrilla war that left at least 13,000 people dead and brought the nation to its knees.
Born a Brahmin from the top of the strict Hindu caste system, Prachanda spent his childhood herding goats and buffalo to help his impoverished family.
"Grandfather was a well-to-do farmer. But later on lean times set in, when family land holdings were fragmented," he explained recently.
He turned to communism at a young age after experiencing Nepal's crushing poverty and inequality at first hand, and says Lenin remains his role model.
"I never really understood why we had to struggle so hard to survive from day to day while our neighbours had all the luxuries," said Prachanda.
He joined the communists in 1980 at the age of 25 and worked as a school teacher and then on US-funded aid projects.
Inspired by the Cultural Revolution in China, as well as Peru's Shining Path movement, he became convinced that an armed insurgency was the only way to bring radical change to one of the world's poorest countries.
Promoted to lead the Maoists, he launched their "People's War" in 1996 with attacks on police posts in the rural west of the country.
The revolt grew into a conflict that saw the Maoists battle security forces to a standstill and secure control of large swathes of the countryside.
In 2006 Prachanda signed a peace deal with the mainstream parties that paved the way for the abolition of the world's last Hindu monarchy and his rise to power via the ballot box.
Now aged 53, with three grown-up children, he cuts an affable figure in public, charming many with his easy conversation and a warm manner that contrasts sharply with that of his deputy Baburam Bhattarai.
Prachanda's life as a renegade may be over, but with Nepal facing a severe food and fuel crisis, and with simmering unrest in the south of the country, he now faces the harsh realities of government.
Date created : 2008-08-15