It’s as if his favourites in the Union cabinet are conspiring to drag Prime Minister Manmohan Singh down. Pawan Kumar Bansal, MP from Chandigarh, became the second minister from Punjab to bring misery to his master.
At a time when law minister Ashwani Kumar’s shenanigans are still a live issue, with the Supreme Court seized of the matter and a verdict expected this week, “another red-letter” day came in the form of a corruption trap laid out for railway minister Bansal’s nephew, Vijay Singhla. Ironically, CBI is the common link in both the cases.
A businessman from Chandigarh, Bansal’s nephew Singla was allegedly caught red-handed accepting Rs 90 lakh from two middlemen acting as conduit between him and Mahesh Kumar, a brand new appointee to the lucrative Railway Board.
The “payment”, the CBI claims, could have been the “first installment” for clinching Kumar’s appointment to the Board. How the CBI got whiff of the deal is not known. Apparently, acting on a “private tip-off” it started tapping Singla and Kumar’s phones.
Meanwhile, Mahesh Kumar, was on Saturday night suspended.
Unlike the law minister, railway minister Bansal offered to resign when he met the Prime Minister, despite pleading not guilty. Sources say, Bansal was asked to hold his horses. The advice came from the party leadership. With Karnataka elections scheduled on Sunday, the Congress could ill-afford another resignation from the Union cabinet on corruption charges.
“I had no clue about the matter,” Bansal said therafter, adding he hopes the CBI investigation will “clear” him. The Congress core group which met in the evening instead advised him to try to “explain” his position to Parliament. The group will meet again on Sunday to take a call on the issue.
After Trinamool Congress’ exit from the UPA leaving the rail coiffeurs allegedly “empty”, Bansal was handpicked by the PM to head the railways to bring it around.
Incidentally, the PM had put Bansal, the “man of his choice”, shifting roadways minister C P Joshi, who held the additional portfolio for a few weeks. Even though Joshi is known to be close to Rahul Gandhi, he was replaced. Just the way Salman Khurshid was replaced by Aswhani Kumar - the PM’s man. Distraught Bansal had early during the day said, in a written statement, “Regarding yesterday’s incident involving my sister’s son in a CBI raid at Chandigarh, I have to say that I had no knowledge or clue about the matter at all. Though a close relative, he or any other relative of mine does not and cannot meddle in my official functions or influence my decisions. There is also no business relationship between his and my family.”
“I have always observed highest standards of probity in public life and look forward to an expeditious investigation by CBI in the matter.” Meanwhile, Mahesh Kumar, member (Staff), Railway Board, who had allegedly paid a bribe of Rs 90 lakh to the nephew of Bansal, was on Saturday night suspended.
Kumar was placed under suspension after the receipt of a report from CBI in the matter, additional director general of Railways, Public Relations, Anil Saxena, said. Kumar’s suspension came hours after the Railway Ministry issued a statement maintaining that no rules had been flouted in the appointment as Member (Staff) earlier this week.
“No officer senior to Shri Mahesh Kumar fulfilling the norms governing appointment to the post of Member (Staff) has been superseded,” the ministry said.