In the absence of any clear-cut indication on when, or whether, the two ‘tainted’ ministers - Ashwani Kumar and Pawan Kumar Bansal - will make an exit from the government, much was being read into the latter skipping the Union Cabinet meeting on Thursday evening.
If sources are to be believed, a distinction is being made between the two. While Kumar may have to lose the portfolio, Bansal may lose his job soon. And, therefore, he did not attend the Cabinet meeting.
In Law Minister Ashwani Kumar’s case, his over-zealous vetting of a CBI probe report meant for the court could be questioned on the ground of “propriety”, but it was “no criminal offence”. So, he may survive the axe despite the “impropriety”.
But for Railway Minister P K Bansal, sitting it out at home in anticipation of a CBI interrogation into grave allegations of corruption, the days in the Union Cabinet may be numbered.
Bansal’s nephew Vijay Shingla is in the CBI net for allegedly taking bribes for handing over a plum posting on the Railway Board, to be delivered by his uncle.
A top Congress leader, however, told Express, “No final decision has been taken yet.”
Nonetheless, the writing on the wall can hardly be ignored. The government had to adjourn sine die the Budget session of Parliament two days ahead of the schedule and hours before the apex Court made adverse observations on the Executive’s interference in the coal-block allocation probe, precisely for changing the direction - the ‘heart’ - of the probe.
The move, obviously, was to avert further attack from the opposition which was already not allowing Parliament to run, demanding that the two controversial ministers be sacked.
A day later, on Thursday, both the government and the Congress were left grappling with the consequences of the scathing observations of the SC on the CBI probe in Coalgate and Railgate scams.
But, it appears, the Prime Minister may opt for a Cabinet reshuffle in which Kumar’s portfolio could be changed and Bansal could be dropped.
Many in the Congress feel that could be a face-saver as it will take the sting out of the opposition’s attack without having to comply with their resignation demand.