Maoist ministers’ ‘ghost’ PAs raise spectre of irregularitiesWhen Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal was describing his waiting lounge meeting with the Indian prime minister and the Chinese president in Goa, India, as a “rare and pleasant” coincidence, the trio’s photo had already been in public domain for two days.
When Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal was describing his waiting lounge meeting with the Indian prime minister and the Chinese president in Goa, India, as a “rare and pleasant” coincidence, the trio’s photo had already been in public domain for two days.
The picture of Dahal, Indian PM Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping was posted by Dahal’s son Prakash Dahal on Facebook and it had made speculation machines in Kathmandu go into overdrive.
One point many observers were raising was why such a “rare and pleasant” coincidence was not brought to public notice through the “proper government channel”, implying that the Foreign Ministry should have been involved in the process. Prakash is said to have made the picture public in the capacity of PM Dahal’s secretariat member.
That incident is over now, but the moot question that is being strongly raised is, even from within the Maoist Centre, why PM Dahal has chosen his son as his personal aide (PA). Prakash is one of the three PAs, but when it comes to issues pertaining to politics, finance, appointment or foreign visit, Maoist insiders say “the son calls the shots”.
PM Dahal’s Chief Personal Secretary Jokh Bahadur Mahara and another Personal Secretary Ramesh Malla have almost no authority even to fix an appointment with the prime minister, they say.
And taking a leaf out of their leader’s book, other Maoist ministers have also conveniently appointed their kin as their personal aides.
Maoist leaders claim that such “ad hoc” procedures and trend of appointing relatives as personal aides could not only stoke dissatisfaction within the party but also give rise to the possibility of irregularities, including shady financial dealings.
The problem is, they say, the Maoist ministers may have some leaders as the PAs but in reality “the actual work is done” by their relatives.
And the list is long.
Finance Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara has Himal Sharma as his PA, Mahara’s son Rahul plays the key role when it comes to financial and other dealings.
Youth and Sports Minister Daljit Sripaili’s PA may be Rajendra Gautam, but the minister’s brother-in-law calls the shots.
Minister for Federal Affairs and Local Development Hitraj Pande has his cousin Rabindra Marahattha in his secretariat, but his personal secretary is Jagannath Khanal. Pande’s daughter is equally active “in assisting the minister in his work”.
Agriculture Minister Gauri Shankar Chaudhary has his brother Batasu Chaudhary in his five-member secretariat. Officially, his personal secretary is Parshuram Chaudhary.
Energy minister Janardan Sharma has his brother Basanta Sharma in the ministry without any portfolio to support him.
Almost every Maoist minister having their kin to work as “ghost PAs” has come as a surprise for Maoist leaders also, as earlier when the party was involved in previous governments, it had laid out a code of conduct which barred the ministers from appointing their kin as their PAs or in the secretariat.
The Maoist Centre on August 20, around two weeks after PM Dahal assumed office, had formed a mechanism under Narayan Kaji Shrestha “to assist the government”. The mechanism, which comprises former ministers as well, however, has largely remained dysfunctional.
Maoist leader Dev Gurung, a former minister and a member of the Shrestha-led mechanism, says the party “has not formulated any code of conduct for ministers and they are working in whatever way they like”.
“We are hardly consulted on any issues of the government,” says Gurung.
Such arbitrary functioning of ministers will help neither the party nor its movement, says Maoist leader Mani Thapa. “On top of that, this trend is detrimental to the country. Due process must be followed.”
One Maoist minister who has not changed the personal secretary is Dhaniram Poudel. He has continued with Jagrit Rayamajhi, who earlier had worked as the personal secretary of Giriraj Mani Pokhrel, who was the education minister in the previous government.