Cablegate: Nepal's Cabinet Ministers - Biographic Information
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P 280842Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KATHMANDU 000692
DEPT FOR SCA/INSB
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR KDEM NP
SUBJECT: NEPAL'S CABINET MINISTERS - BIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION
REF: A. KATHMANDU 590
B. KATHMANDU 562
C. KATHMANDU 522
D. KATHMANDU 437
1. (SBU) Following is biographic information about key
ministers in the current Nepali cabinet. Biographic
information about the Prime Minister was reported in Ref D.
Bijay Gachhadar, Deputy Prime Minister and Physical Planning
2. (SBU) Bijay Kumar Gachhadar, of the Madhesi People's
Rights Forum (MPRF), was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and
Minister of Physical Planning and Works -- the ministry he
held in the Maoist-led government -- on June 4. Gachhadar's
appointment put him into open conflict with MPRF chairman
Upendra Yadav, who declared that Gachhadar and several of his
supporters were expelled from the party. Gachhadar applied
to register his faction as a separate party at the Election
Commission. A decision on his application is pending. After
leaving the Nepali Congress (NC) for the MPRF in March 2008,
Gachhadar won both of the constituencies he contested (one
each in Morang and Sunsari) in the CA election the following
month. He was an NC member elected to Parliament in 1991,
1994, and 1999. During that period, he served as Minister
for Communications (1991), Public Works and Transport (1995),
Tourism and Civil Aviation (1999-2000), and Water Resources
(July - October 2002). Gachhadar reportedly was very close
to G.P. Koirala until Koirala denied him a ministerial
portfolio in the cabinet he formed in December 1998.
Gachhadar has militant political roots and reportedly remains
involved in corruption. During his early affiliation with
the NC, he was involved in a number of armed actions,
including the 1972 hijacking of a Royal Nepal Airlines flight
to India. He was implicated in a 1975 bomb attack on a
police station in the eastern Terai district of Sunsari.
Gachhadar was born in 1953 to a Tharu family in Sunsari. He
holds a Master's degree in political science from Kathmandu's
Tribhuvan University. He is married and has a daughter and
two sons, one of whom is in the United States. His English
Sujata Koirala, Foreign Affairs
3. (SBU) Sujata Koirala, the only child of NC president
Girija Prasad Koirala, was appointed Minister of Foreign
Affairs on June 4. She previously served as a Minister
Without Portfolio in the cabinet of her father from January
to August 2008. Koirala contested the CA election in April
2008 but lost to the chairman of the MPRF, Upendra Yadav.
Koirala has been the head of the foreign relations department
of the NC since October 2005. She was elected to the party's
Central Committee in September 2005. She has been active in
politics since her father first became prime minister in
1991. She also is the founding president of Sushma Koirala
Memorial Trust, an NGO established in the name of her late
mother. Koirala is a controversial figure both within and
outside her party. NC members, frustrated with the
stranglehold the Koirala family has over the party, question
her political savvy and ability to be effective at the
national level. Her name has been connected to a number of
corruption scams, including one that involved a Royal Nepal
Airlines contract in the early 1990s, but all allegations
remain unproven. Koirala's detractors highlight that she
repeatedly argued against uprooting the monarchy. She fled
to India following the royal takeover in February 2005 and
returned to Kathmandu after former King Gyanendra conceded
power in April 2006. Koirala was born on September 25, 1954
in Biratnagar, Morang district in the eastern Terai. She
completed a course in textile design in Delhi, India.
Koirala is married to a German national and lived in Germany
for many years until 1991. She has two adult children: a
son, Siddhartha, and a daughter, Melanie. Koirala is a
Brahmin. She speaks English fluently.
KATHMANDU 00000692 002 OF 003
Bhim Rawal, Home Affairs
4. (SBU) Bhim Bahadur Rawal was appointed Minister of Home
Affairs on June 17. The Communist Party of Nepal - United
Marxist Leninist (UML) Central Committee member was elected
to the CA under the proportional representation system in
April 2008. Rawal served as Minister of Tourism and Civil
Aviation and of Science and Technology in 1998-99 and as the
State Minister for Commerce, Tourism and Civil Aviation in
1994-95. He was elected to Parliament in 1994. He worked on
election issues with the United Nations in Cambodia in
1992-93. Rawal was an adviser to Jhalanath Khanal -- now UML
General Secretary -- while the latter served as a minister in
the interim government of 1990-91. Rawal allied himself with
M. K. Nepal when Nepal became General Secretary of the UML in
1993. Khanal, angered by the switch in allegiance, allegedly
attempted to remove Rawal from his position as State Minister
in 1994, but M. K. Nepal -- then Deputy Prime Minister --
reportedly protected Rawal. Rawal currently appears to enjoy
good relations with both Khanal and the now Prime Minister.
Rawal was born on December 15, 1955 in Achham district in the
hills of far western Nepal. He holds an M.A. in political
science and a bachelor's degree in law from Tribhuvan
University. He was a practicing lawyer who worked on a
number of legal literacy and assistance issues for the Nepal
Bar Association in the late 1980s. He is married and has two
sons. Rawal is a Chhetri. He speaks English fluently.
Bidhya Bhandari, Defense
5. (SBU) Bidhya Bhandari -- the widow of Madan Bhandari, who
was UML general secretary from 1990 until his death in a car
accident in 1993 -- was appointed Minister of Defense on May
25. She previously served as the Minister of Population and
Environment from March to October 1997. Bhandari was elected
one of three Vice Chairpersons of the UML in February 2009.
Aligned with the Prime Minister's majority faction of the
UML, she has been a Central Committee member of the party
since February 2003 and was an alternate Central Committee
member from 1998 to 2003. She began politics with the
Communist Party of Nepal - Marxist Leninist in 1978 and
joined the UML after the restoration of multiparty democracy
in 1990. She was elected to the lower house of Parliament
from Kathmandu in a by-election in 1994 and was re-elected in
the mid-term polls later that year. She was defeated in her
contest in 2008 and is not a member of the CA. Bhandari was
born on June 19, 1961. She holds a Bachelor's degree from an
affiliate of Kathmandu's Tribhuvan University. She has two
daughters. Bhandari is a Brahmin. Her English is poor.
Surendra Pandey, Finance
6. (SBU) Surendra Prasad Pandey, a close aide of UML
chairman Jhalanath Khanal, was appointed Minister of Finance
on May 25. Pandey was elected to the CA under the
proportional representation system in April 2008 and was the
deputy parliamentary party leader of the UML until he became
a minister. He was elected to the UML's politburo in May
2009. Pandey previously served as a member of parliament
from 1999 to June 2003. He joined politics at the age of 15
and spent 12 years underground during the Panchayat era.
Born in 1958 in Dhading, a district adjoining Kathmandu,
Pandey has a Master's degree in sociology and is a teacher by
profession. He has authored several sociological books.
Pandey is a Brahmin.
Umakant Chaudhari, Health and Population
7. (SBU) Umakant Chaudhari, a CA member from the central
Terai district of Bara, joined the cabinet on June 4 and was
appointed Minister of Health and Population on June 17. He
served as an Assistant Minister of Agriculture and
KATHMANDU 00000692 003 OF 003
Cooperatives from July 2004 to January 2005. Chaudhari is an
NC Central Committee member. He sided with the NC
(Democratic) -- the faction of Sher Bahadur Deuba -- after
the NC split in September 2002 (the party reunited in 2007).
Chaudhari began his political career with the mainline NC in
1979. Prior to that, he served on the Central Committee of
the NC-affiliated Nepal Students Union in the 1970s.
Chaudhari was born on August 31, 1966 in Bara district. He
holds a Master's degree in botany from Tribhuvan University
and is an International Visitors Leadership Program alumnus.
He is married and has a son and three daughters. Chaudhari
is Tharu. His English is poor.
Rakam Chemjong, Peace and Reconstruction
8. (SBU) Rakam Chemjong, a UML Central Committee since
February 2009, was appointed Minister of Peace and
Reconstruction on June 17. Chemjong was first elected to the
parliament in 1991 but is not a current CA member. He twice
served as president of the Free Students Union, a multi-party
student council, and is a founding member of the
UML-affiliated All Nepal National Free Students Union.
Chemjong was born in 1957 in the eastern Nepal district of
Dhankuta and holds a B.Sc. from Tribhuvan University (1985).
He is from the Rai community.
Prakash Sharan Mahat, Energy
9. (SBU) Prakash Sharan Mahat, an NC Central Committee
member, joined the cabinet on June 4 and was appointed
Minister of Energy on June 17. Mahat was nominated to the CA
under the proportional representation system in April 2008.
He previously served as State Minister of Foreign Affairs
from July 2004 to January 2005 and as an advisor for
then-Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba from July 2001 to
October 2002. A former General Secretary of the NC-affiliated
Nepal Students Union (1984-88), Mahat has long been active in
the party and was imprisoned several times before 1990 during
the struggle for democracy. Mahat was born in November 1959
in Nuwakot, a district to the north of Kathmandu. He was
awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 1990 and holds a Ph.D. in
economics from Southern Illinois University (1997). He is
married and has two children. His older brother, Ram Sharan
Mahat, was the Finance Minister in several NC governments.
Prakash Mahat is Chhetri. His English is excellent.
10. (SBU) Home Minister Bhim Rawal is a close Embassy
contact and an experienced leader well-placed to oversee the
police services. After a series of disappointing Home
Ministers, including the combative Bamdev Gautam in Pushpa
Dahal's government and the feckless Krishna Sitaula in G.P.
Koirala's government, we view Rawal as a welcome change.
Prakash Mahat is also a close Embassy contact. Post knows
pro-American Sujata Koirala well but has doubts about her
effectiveness. Despite the mixed bag of ministers, all eight
of the above are in their 40s and 50s -- quite young by
Nepalese political standards.