Railway Minister P K Bansal’s continuance in the Union Cabinet hung in balance as Congress and the government received a fresh battering in the wake of the arrest of his nephew on the charge of accepting bribe to fix plum position in the Railway Board.
On the day of hectic fire fighting, Bansal first rushed to 7, Race Course Road, the residence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to explain his side. During his 20-minute meeting, he even offered to resign.
Expecting political fallout of the issue, Bansal once again offered his defence during the Congress core group meeting headed by Sonia Gandhi on Saturday evening. The meet ended inconclusively.
The party delayed any action on Bansal, as it would have found resonance during the Karnataka polls on Sunday.
Smelling a perfect opportunity to discredit a man considered close to PM Manmohan Singh, the opposition demanded his scalp. BJP started protests against Bansal in Chandigarh, a constituency he is representing in Lok Sabha for the fourth time.
BJP spokesperson, Prakash Javadekar, who was leading the protest against Bansal in Chandigarh said, “The Rail promotion corruption case is an open and shut case. The man who was to be promoted got promoted on the May 1 and he delivered the remainder of the bribe to the Bansal-appointed person, who is also his so-called constituency manager and who has been caught red-handed with `90 lakh. This payment is a part of the agreed amount; according to our information, the total deal was fixed for `5 crore. Being an open and shut case, he must resign, and if he does not, then the Prime Minister must sack him immediately.”
For the Railways Ministry the issue has cast shadow over the recent appointments in the railway board. Apart from Mahesh Kumar, who was arrested by the CBI, two more members had joined the board last week. Subodh Jain took over as the member engineering, while Arunendra Kumar took over as member mechanical. The chairman of the Railway Board is retiring in June along with the finance commissioner and the entire railway board is expected to see new faces.
The railway board is the top-most decision making body within the ministry that has power to award thousands of crores of rupees worth of projects.
The ministry had come to Congress after a gap of 17 years. Bansal had tried to bring the Railways back on track after years of populist measures had brought it to brink of bankruptcy.
Former Member of Parliament from Chandigarh and senior BJP leader Satya Pal Jain too demanded that Bansal be removed as Railways Minister. “Vijay Singla has been working under the patronage of Bansal,” he alleged. Chandigarh BJP President, Sanjay Tandon said, “Bansal cannot distance and absolve himself from the misdeeds of his nephew. Things must have been in Bansal’s knowledge as it involved fixing a top-level position in the board.”
As the details of the investigations emerged, before being taken to Delhi on Saturday, Singla was questioned till late on Friday night at the corporate office of his upcoming commercial complex ‘Acropolis’ in Chandigarh.
Singla is considered to be so powerful that it took the CBI team nearly half-an-hour to gain entry into the palatial house.
Meanwhile, Mahesh Kumar, Member (Staff) Railway Board who had allegedly paid the to the nephew of Railway Minister P K Bansal, was suspended on Saturday night. Kumar was placed under suspension after the receipt of a report from CBI in the matter.