Yubaraj Ghimire, KATHMANDU: Two months ago, when Nepal Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai sanctioned Rs 20 million for a nine-member expedition to Mt Everest, it sparked outrage over what many saw as splurging of public money on a team that included Prakash Dahal, son of Maoist leader Prachanda.
Prakash later announced he did not need the money, ending that controversy, only to enter another. Prakash, married with a child, has now apparently eloped with one of his expedition team-mates, Bina Thapa Magar, a Maoist student activist. This was after they had scaled the peak.
Parakash, 31, and Bina are said to be “in hiding” in Patna, a city where he had gone to school from 1996 to 2002.
Prakash was married twice earlier. The first marriage, in 2006, was with the daughter of Posta Bahadur Bogati, a powerful Maoist leader, a Prachanda follower and currently a minister. It lasted 16 months.
Less than a year after the bitter divorce, the national media flashed pictures of Prachanda dancing at his son’s wedding. The bride was Srijana Pathak, a girl from a village, and the couple now have a one-year-old son.
Bina was once married to Shankar Adhikary, who too is a Maoist student leader. They fell out and parted company politically, too, ending on opposite sides of the Maoist party’s split.
Signs of Prakash’s relationship with Bina showed during the expedition. “From the base camp, at least two members of the team kept informing Prakash’s parents that Bina and Prakash’s behaviour would bring disrepute to the family and the party,” said an activist of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M). “But Prachanda and his wife did not take it seriously,” said the activist, who is close to the family.
Sources said Prakash was doted on by his parents whose other three children are daughters, all elder to the only son.
At 14, they pulled him out of a government school in Kathmandu and took him to to Patna. One of his sisters was living there; her father-in-law T B Pathak was with Punjab National Bank. After completing school, Prakash joined his father’s movement. “After the Maoists joined mainstream politics in 2006, Prachanda gained in influence and affluence,” an insider said.
Prakash figured on the front page of a local newspaper three years ago, apparently drunk, and the insider claimed he controls a substantial part of benami property that Prachanda is alleged to have acquired. “Prachanda has minted billions and we want a probe into it,” said P Gajurel, a party colleague of more than two decades who recently broke away from Prachanda.
“One piece of advice from G P Koirala that Prachanda took seriously was that he should not involve outsiders in the handling of his property,” said a standing committee member. So Prakash ended up handling a lot; party sources guess he has taken with him enough money not only to buy a flat in Patna but also have enough left to “live comfortably for some time”.
Prakash’s weaknesses are said to include scotch. “Prakash got into the habit while serving his father’s guests,” said a friend of his.
Prachanda appointed his son in the staff of the PM when he himself took over as chief executive officer for nine months from August 2008. Prakash earned the reputation of a deal-maker while Prachanda’s nephew Sameer Dahal, although more effective, kept a lower profile.
The doting father is now apparently showing his embarrassment. His close aides say he had confided in former prime minister Madhav Nepal, leader of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), a few days before the elopement. Once the news broke out, it was Prachanda who asked his party’s politburo to suspend Prakash from the state council and investigate his affairs. Bina , a national coordinator for the Maoist party’s student wing, too has been suspended.
Party sources wondered if Prakash is in touch with Pathak, his sister’s father-in-law, who now lives in Delhi.
Source: THE INDIAN EXPRESS