Inspired by the revolutionary playbook of Mao Zedong, Nepal's rebels launched their quest to overthrow the Hindu monarchy by building an army of the poor and dispossessed. Turning low caste villagers and women into guerrilla soldiers, they spread their "People's War" across Nepal. More than 13,000 were killed in the fighting. As the situation spiraled out of control, King Gyanendra responded by seizing absolute power and cracking down on any political opposition. Sensing an opportunity, the Maoists reached out to the political parties sidelined by the king and launched joint protests. The tactic worked, forcing the king to release his grip on power and paving the way for a ceasefire and elections. The rebels quickly transformed themselves from fighters into campaigners, and swept the elections in a landslide. In May 2008 Nepal was declared a republic and the Maoist chief, Comrade Prachanda, became prime minister.