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Pawan Bansal, Ashwani Kumar to stay for now

Last updated on: May 5, 2013 22:37 IST

Image: Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal

The United Progressive Alliance on Sunday decided not to oblige the opposition by asking for the resignation of Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, whose nephew was arrested in a bribery case, as also Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, who is in the eye of a storm over the coal-gate controversy.

A meeting of the Congress core group, the second in as many days, saw the ruling party deciding to weather the storm at a time when Parliament is paralysed over a host of issues, including the coal scam in which the Bharatiya Janata Party is demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

After the deliberations of the meeting chaired by party chief Sonia Gandhi at the residence of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari ruled out resignations of either Bansal or Kumar.

In fact, he even quoted National Democratic Alliance convenor and Janata Dal-United chief Sharad Yadav's defence of Bansal to make an attack on the BJP remarking, "resignation does not augur well for democracy".

Bansal's resignation is being demanded in the wake of the arrest of his nephew by the Central Bureau of Investigation on the charge of accepting bribe to fix plum position in the railway board and demands for his removal and prosecution are mounting.


Pawan Bansal, Ashwani Kumar to stay for now

Image: Law Minister Ashwani Kumar

The resignation of Kumar is being demanded in the wake of allegations that he had interfered in the preparation of the CBI status report on coal allocation scam issue to the Supreme Court.

Tewari said any decision on the railway minister will be "improper" till a probe in the case in which his nephew has been arrested is on. The minister himself has welcomed the probe into the issue.

"Two parallel processes are playing themselves out. There is a trial in the public domain and there is an investigation process....The Supreme Court itself has said that till proved otherwise, a person should be treated as innocent," he said.

Dismissing suggestions that the Congress leadership was applying different yardsticks for different leaders and had taken resignation of Ashok Chavan as Maharashtra chief minister in similar circumstances, Tewari remarked, "There are no different forks for different folks...If any parallels are sought to be drawn they are erroneous."

Brushing aside the demand for the resignation of the law minister, he said the matter concerning Ashwani Kumar is sub-judice and is scheduled to come up in court on May 8.


Pawan Bansal, Ashwani Kumar to stay for now

Image: Kumar allegedly asked for a CBI report on its coal investigation to be diluted before it was submitted to the Supreme Court

Accusing the BJP of playing the politics of disruption and obstruction in Parliament, Tewari said those demanding the resignations should first look within.

The decision of the Congress leadership to back the two ministers is expected to escalate the deadlock in Parliament, which has failed to do any business since the second phase of the Budget session resumed on April 22.

The passage of the finance bill, which marks the end of the budgetary exercise and the railway budget, was done without any debate and after walkout of the opposition.

In fact, the talk in ruling circles is that government could go in for a sine die adjournment of Parliament on Wednesday once the Joint Parliamentary Committee draft report on 2G scam is adopted or the committee gets an extension by then.

The BJP was quick to lambast the government with General Secretary Rajiv Pratap Rudy saying the belligerence of the Congress government to defend corruption and its corrupt ministers is shocking. Significantly, Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy as also Tewari were called for consultations after the core group meeting. Personnel ministry is the nodal ministry under which the CBI works.

At the core group meeting, Bansal is said to have explained his position claiming he had neither business links with his nephew Vijay Singla nor did he get influenced by him in decision-making. He has distanced himself from Singla, who was arrested by the CBI two days back for allegedly accepting Rs 90 lakh for fixing a better position for Railway Board member Mahesh Kumar.

Before the three-hour long core group meeting, Gandhi held consultations with Defence Minister A K Antony.

Union Minister Kamal Nath was called in again on Sunday at the core group meeting, which was attended among others by Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and political secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

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