Giving the clearest indication yet that Pawan Kumar Bansal would be its contestant of choice for the Chandigarh Lok Sabha seat, the Congress on Thursday said that the purported "taint" on the former rail minister was all a matter of "speculation which has nothing to do with the truth".
"Bansal ji is our respected leader. When the list will be issued and it will have Chandigarh's name, you will come to know what is the reality," All India Congress Committee general secretary in-charge for Chandigarh, Shakeel Ahmed, said.
"Bansal's name does not figure either in the FIR or charge sheet (in the cash-for-post scam).
"One NGO had filed a PIL in the same case, which was rejected by high court. This is all media speculation (about Bansal's taint), which has nothing to do with truth," he added.
Party sources said that the Congress Central Election Committee has already cleared Bansal's name for Chandigarh, but did not announce it in the first list to avoid any controversy while making a big declaration of candidates for 194 seats.
The second list or a subsequent one will have Bansal's name, sources added.
A special CBI court on Wednesday framed charges of criminal conspiracy and corruption against Bansal's nephew Vijay Singla and nine others who were arrested in the Rs 10-crore cash-for-post railway bribery case when the Congress leader was holding the railway portfolio.
With a row erupting over the case, Bansal had resigned from the Union Cabinet. The party, however, maintains that Bansal's resignation was only on moral grounds.
After his resignation in May of last year, Bansal staged a comeback in January this year as he was appointed chairman of the party's candidate screening panel for the key states of Gujarat and Rajasthan along with the Union Territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari, who is presently an MP from Ludhiana, is reportedly eyeing the Chandigarh seat.
Tewari had said that the party should not get into legalities and instead "not give tickets to those who are facing even allegations of corruption".
However, sources said that the leadership seems to have decided in favour of re-nominating Bansal as it feels that there are no direct charges against him.
Denial of a ticket in that case to the senior leader could queer the pitch for Congress in the constituency, which the former rail minister has represented four times.