Ending speculation on their fate,Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and Law Minister Ashwani Kumar resigned on Friday evening. They were given marching orders three hours after Congress president Sonia Gandhi met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Bansal,who had taken over the Railway Ministry last October,found himself at the centre of a huge controversy after the CBI caught his nephew Vijay Singla accepting Rs 90 lakh in cash as bribe for a lucrative posting for a senior Railway official last week.
Law Minister Ashwani Kumar had been in the eye of a storm for vetting the CBI report on coal block allocations. The CBI had admitted to changes in its report when it filed an affidavit to the Supreme Court which took a strong exception to the Ministers act.
The Indian Express had first reported in its edition of April 13 that the CBI chief was likely to inform the court that Kumar and the PMO had vetted the report and suggested a number of changes,some of which were incorporated by the CBI. The report triggered an uproar from the opposition and led to continuous disruptions in Parliament.
The ruling dispensation had earlier decided to defend the beleaguered ministers and chosen to brazen it out with the Opposition,even sacrificing the post-recess Budget session of Parliament which could not transact any business due to disruptions by Opposition parties.
A clear hint about action against Bansal came when Congress spokesman Bhakt Charan Das said the party will not spare anybody mired in corruption or manipulation.
At the AICC briefing earlier,the Congress spokesman said,One thing is very clear that Congress party is not going to tolerate any corruption. That much I can assure you.
To questions on the fate of Bansal and Kumar,he said,Congress has always looked at issues like corruption very seriously and is examining this subject also very seriously. He went on to add I have very categorically said that the Congress partys policy is that the party and the leadership is not going to spare anybody,who is mired in corruption.
To a specific question on whether the Law Minister should resign himself as enough controversy surrounding his role on the CBIs draft report on coal has happened,Das said: What he would do,it is up to him. How can I say he should do this or that? I do not exist in the heart of Ashwani Kumar and in the mind of Ashwani Kumar.
To a question on whether this meant that action would be taken against both Bansal and Kumar,Das said: Anybody involved in any kind of manipulation cannot be spared. So far as Ashwani Kumar is concerned,the CBI and the Supreme Court are looking into the issue. It depends on the instruction of the Supreme Court.
A debate on Ashwani Kumar and the Railway Minister is going on….the law of the land has taken up the matter and very seriously the Supreme Court and the CBI are doing it. And we are very serious about that, he said.