13-19 December 2013 #685

Prachanda’s changing portrait

Guna Raj Lohani, Nepal, 8 December

In November, a Facebook friend tagged me in a photo of a painting of Prachanda I had made eight years ago for the Nepal Communist Party’s famed Chunbang meet. The caption read, “What happened to the Guna Raj Lohani who made this portrait of Prachanda with so much love?”

The picture is one among many others that I was asked to make for Chunbang where I was in-charge of hall decorations. Besides Prachanda’s portrait, which he personally asked me to make, I painted portraits of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao that were to adorn the meeting hall.

While working on the portrait, I felt a deep sense of pride and achievement. After all, this was a man who had led a revolutionary people’s movement and for whom I had the utmost respect. During the meeting, Prachanda talked about the need for a new communist manifesto which he promised would be written by the party. We began to regard him as the greatest leader after Mao. At the time, I was also in the process of writing his biography.

With his excellent oratory skills, Prachanda had developed the ability to easily convince people. His greatest asset was his ability to adapt. He could quickly judge a person’s capability and didn’t refrain from making use of able individuals. Before Chunbang, Baburam Bhattarai described Prachanda as having a volatile personality. But after the meet, Bhattarai somehow seemed to change his opinion and said the chairman was as dynamic as Lenin.

It is true that Prachanda lacks the patience to focus on a single goal because of which he lacks the stability needed for a statesman. But if he made up his mind about something, he would achieve it anyhow.

I do not see that Prachanda of 2005 anymore. He has left behind his ideals and forgotten his party’s objectives. It is little wonder why the people who used to look up to him and love him including myself are gradually distancing ourselves from him. There were days when I used to proudly walk around with his photo in my pocket. But those days are long gone.

Only when a leader has the support of his followers, cadres, and the general public can he achieve greatness. But when the same leader jumps from one social class to another and in the process destroys the ideals that he created in the first place, he loses all respect.

Prachanda undoubtedly played a crucial role in Nepal’s communist movement. It is for this reason that his portrait was considered important enough to be placed alongside other great leftist leaders. But the moment a public personality strays from the path that he set out for himself, he loses his aura and power. Prachanda committed this cardinal sin of politics.

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