Skeletons in the Cabinet

Some Cabinet members who have become ministers again despite nefarious pasts

Meeting of the new Cabinet on 7 March. Photo: RSS

This new season of Singha Darbar looks set to be action-packed: back-stabbing, betrayals, break-ups, patch-ups, repeat cameo appearances by tainted characters.  

All but three members of the new Cabinet have been ministers at least once before. No one remembers any accomplishments from their previous tenures. But we do recall allegations of misconduct, nepotism, incompetence, or conflict of interest.    

Read also: What difference does it make?, Editorial 

Summary of (some) Cabinet members who have become ministers (again) despite their nefarious pasts:

Barsaman Pun, Minister of Finance

Maoist Centre

Has been finance minister twice, energy minister once and served as Minister for Peace. Implicated in a previous term in the purchase of six Chinese aircraft for Nepal Airlines. 

Just in his first week again as finance minister, Pun has found himself again in the middle of a scandal. An investigation by Nagarik links him with a smuggling racket in which his relative, former Vice President Nanda Kishore Pun, is already under investigation. Both Puns are former Maoist guerrilla commanders, and are close to Prime Minister Dahal.  

Raghubir Mahaseth, Minister of Physical Infrastructure and Transportation


Why this man keeps coming back despite past scandals is a mystery. But there is credence to the theory that his relative, billionaire and Belarus resident Upendra Mahato, is a UML donor. Mahaseth holds the dubious honour of being given the boot by his own party chair K P Oli for ‘poor performance’ during his previous 18-month term in the same ministry in 2019. But he is back.

In 2020, Mahaseth retaliated against Oli by publicly denouncing the UML. Oli placated him by giving him the Foreign Ministry in 2021, despite Mahaseth’s total lack of experience in foreign affairs. Oli has stuck by Mahaseth despite influential party members like Ramchandra Jha leaving the UML because of this mollycoddling.   

Rabi Lamichhane, Minister of Home Affairs


Even party insiders were against Rabi Lamichhane joining the government at this time. Just about everyone knows he wanted to be back in the powerful Home Ministry to clear his name in a citizenship caper and a cooperative scam. The Supreme Court invalidated his previous MP position due to his US citizenship issue, but he rectified it easily by obtaining new citizenship and winning a by-election that reinstated him. In early 2024, Lamichhane was accused of misappropriating funds from several cooperatives to bankroll the media company he owned. He is now back in charge of the very ministry that oversees agencies investigating him. 

nepal's new cabinet and ministers
Barsaman Pun, Dol Prasad Aryal, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Rabi Lamichhane and Raghubir Mahaseth.

Dol Prasad Aryal, Minister of Labour


The fact that Dol Prasad Acharya returns as Labour Minister after his previous 20-day stint last year, is indicative of how close he is to Lamichhane. Aryal does have interest in the labour sector, or shall we say conflict of interest. In 2023 he was appointed minister while still listed as CEO of a remittance company and International Marketing Director at a recruitment agency, one of 41 investigated by the Department of Money Laundering. 

Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Prime Minister

Maoist Centre

Throughout his career Dahal has juggled two jobs: chair of the Maoist party as well as a one-man recruitment agency giving jobs to his children, in-laws, even the son of his landlord. 

He made sure his daughter Renu Dahal had ample chances to be elected mayor of Bharatpur twice. His other daughter Ganga handles his secretariat and is a photo-op buddy in Dahal’s high-profile engagements.

Daughter-in-law Bina Magar was previously the Minister for Water Supply, and his sons-in-law and nephew have held positions ranging from personal secretaries and political advisers to politicians. The son of his landlord was given a 99-year lease on the sacred Buddhist Ramgram site, a deal struck down by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee last month.  

This week, Prime Minister Dahal pushed  his cousin Narayan Dahal to be appointed chair of the National Assembly despite criticism of nepotism from within his party.

At least there are some fresh faces in the Cabinet, two of whom are Education Minister Sumana Shrestha and Youth and Sports Minister Biraj Bhakta Shrestha, both of the RSP. Shrestha has been vocal about education reform as an opposition MP, and it will be worth watching if the two Shresthas will be allowed to bring positive change, now that they are in government.

Shristi Karki

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