In the quiet aftermath of their political careers, former ministers of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT), who lost in the fourth parliament primary elections in November 2023, are rediscovering the rhythms of everyday life.

Some have returned to their villages to tend to family lands and build new homes, while others have become caregivers for elderly parents and relatives, babysitters for their children, and managers of household chores.

Three former ministers opted to spend more time in their constituencies. The former education minister, JB Rai, finds himself enjoying a simple, fulfilling moments of daily life away from the public eye. He has been living in his village in Pachu, about 5.1 kilometers from Phuentsholing town, since January this year, taking care of his 8-acre ancestral land, his 97 and 92-year-old grandparents, and an 85-year-old speech-impaired woman.

Former Minister for Economic Affairs, Loknath Sharma, taking his father, who is unwell, to his village in Dorokha, Samtse

“Since no able persons or siblings are there to look after my inherited land, which is turning into a forest, I returned home to cultivate crops and plant fruit trees as well as attend to my grandparents,” JB Rai said, adding that he could not support them physically when he was serving the nation. “This is the right time to pay back through humble service. I am not only involved in farming. I am also the cook.”

His wife, who is a teacher, is living in Thimphu with their children. “I don’t have to worry about my family,” he said. 

Living in the village, the former minister also helps and guides farmers in plantations, education, forest, and livestock-related issues. “I am enjoying the spirit of rural life,” he said.

Former Minister for Economic Affairs, Loknath Sharma, is often seen driving a Bolero pickup truck in his hometown in Dorokha and along the Samtse-Phuentsholing highway ferrying construction materials. “The Bolero belongs to my nephew, and when I am in the village, I drive and fetch goods from Phuentsholing whenever required,” he said.

He uses his wife’s small Alto car when he is in Thimphu to drop and pick up his son from school. He cleans the house and does household chores while his wife is busy teaching at the school.

Lyonpo dreb (former minister) Loknath Sharma had a difficult time catching up after completing his five-year tenure as a minister since he didn’t have any business establishments to fall back on. “However, my ailing parents kept me engaged in the village,” he said, adding that he stayed about a month in Sarpang, where his mother passed away after the elections.

Today, lyonpo dreb travels back and forth (Thimphu-Dorokha) to look after his 84-year-old father, who is seriously ill. “From minister to becoming a commoner is not easy. But we have to accept the reality and spend our life where we grew up and were brought up,” he lamented.

Former Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor is busy constructing a four-storied commercial building in his village in Chukarpo near Tshangkha, Trongsa. He is also into farming on his 3-acre land, where he has developed an orchard and cultivated mixed fruit trees.

“It is better to go back to the village to enjoy the beauty of a clean environment and peaceful life,” said Yeshey Penjor, who lives with his wife, daughter, and two grandsons in Tshangkha. He also frequently travels to Thimphu to visit his mother. 

Recently, he and the former finance minister, Namgay Tshering,  participated in the Desuung training programme in Samtse and came to Thimphu for the Desuung coordination meeting held on May 31.

Simple joys of family life

Once engaged in the high-stakes world of politics, some former leaders find solace in the simple joys of family life, shouldering the role of housewives from cleaning and laundering to cooking, taking children to and from school, and reading books during leisure time.

Lyonpo dreb Namgay Tshering, looks after his two children at home in Debsi, Thimphu. “When my wife returns from office, I usually take a short walk or sometimes visit friends for social gatherings,” he said. “Besides that, I do cater to some social service in guiding people who seek information on business ventures, loan services.” Namgay Tshering has also become a mediator   in his village given his experience of running the country’s finance ministry.

From Dogar-Shaba constituency, Paro, Namgay Tshering said that he does read valid/authentic social media posts and makes his own share of constructive comments. “I feel that I am not actually in retirement. I would like to positively contribute to nation-building and fulfilling the noble aspirations of our beloved monarchs,” he said. “ As a Desuup, I feel that I have a better platform to pay back to my country.”

Youngest among the former ministers, Nangsi Lyonpo dreb Ugyen Dorji, from Thrimshing-Kangpara constituency, Trashigang, is busy processing his scholarship to pursue higher studies abroad in public policy. “Instead of looking for a job, I have to upgrade my education so that I can serve better for the Tsa-Wa-Sum,” the former Home Minister who is living with his sister and family in Thimphu said.

“Other than this, I have been staying home, reading books I have always wanted to read, and helping my children with their studies,” Ugyen Dorji, who also served as Labour and Home Minister during the DNT’s ruling government.

Lyonpo dreb Dorji Tshering from Sakteng, Trashigang, also lives in Thimphu taking care of his daughter and son. “I took my parents for nyekor (pilgrimage) and now waiting to participate in the tendering process for the construction works,” Dorji Tshering, with a civil engineer background, said, adding that he will engage with a construction firm.

Swapping parliamentary debates for bedtime stories, former Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji embraces the serenity of a life away from politics by engaging in voluntary service with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and patients in Thimphu. He also spends his time writing a book, playing golf, archery, and constructing a building. “I am also looking after the DNT’s secretariat and coordinating party’s meetings once or twice a week,” Dr Tandi, one of the founding members of DNT, said.

Meanwhile, the former Opposition Leader, Dorji Wangdi, is visible in his constituency more than serving as a parliamentarian before. “I am keeping myself embraced with the people of Zhemgang,” he said. “I feel I should continue to contribute to the uplifting of people’s economy and nation-building informally in my capacity outside the parliament.”

As the president of Druk Phuensum Tshogpa, Dorji Wangdi also looks after the party’s interests. “There is not much change in the party and running as normal. However, keeping the party financially alive is the challenge. 

“DPT is going through a new situation for the first time without a source of funding,” the president said. “We used to finance our party secretariat through monthly contributions from MPs, but now we are no longer in the parliament.” 

Contributed by 

Rinzin Wangchuk