SURKHET, Feb 19: Around 16 years ago, the life of Chief Minister Mahendra Bahadur Shahi of Province 6 was quite interesting. While the outside world recognized him as a division commander of the rebels, those who worked closely with him said he played the role of a political commissar more than that of a military commander.
He started his military career on August 23, 1996 and retired on November 25, 2012. According to a former combatant, that very responsibility of commissar during the 'People's War' had given Shahi success in politics in a short period of time.
After all, he managed to become a member of parliament just a year after he resigned from the post of division commander. Within five years, he was appointed as Energy Minister and seven months after that, he has now been elected as the first chief minister of Province 6.
During the armed conflict, there were two divisions within the Maoist combatants - commander and commissar. The responsibility of a commander was to command personnel within his military unit and lead them in the battlefield while the commissars were responsible to teach them politics and to plan attacks, and play a managerial role.
According to the former combatant, who is now integrated into the Nepal Army, Shahi led his team in over 150 attacks and counter-attacks. Besides a handful of failure, most of his plans were executed with success. Due to his success, he rose to prominence despite Kalikot district having senior Maoist leaders. By the time the peace process started, he had already won the heart of party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and senior leader Janardhan Sharma.
“Shahi is skilled in both politics and as a commander. Comparatively, he is more skilled in politics than as war commander,” said the former combatant, who did not wish to be named. “There were many people in the rebel army who were more experienced and senior than him. However, his success as both commander and commissar made him stand out.”
With his election as chief minister of Province 6, Shahi is expected to lead the province in military style. “We will move forward being action oriented. We will not just make plans but we'll also see that the plans are effectively executed,” said Shahi.