The Congress may have been celebrating the good news from Karnataka on Wednesday,but two of its central ministers – Ashwani Kumar and Pawan Kumar Bansal – were on tenterhooks. While one was keenly watching the Supreme Court,the other was tracking the Central Bureau of Investigation as calls for their resignations grew louder.
For Kumar,sources said,the text of the Supreme Court order was critical to his survival. The oral observations of the three-member bench,led by Justice R M Lodha,may have been quite scathing but insiders say any decision would have to be based on the content of the written order.
The red line for the government here is the law minister being implicated in any way,even if its getting him to file an affidavit.
The principle,sources said,is simple a law minister cannot be in court and be expected to discharge his duties at the same time.
In Bansals case,top sources said the situation would become untenable if the CBI seeks to question him in the alleged bribery case involving his nephew.
While there have been the likes of Lalu Prasad Yadav and Shibu Soren among UPA ministers who have held ministerial berths despite being under investigation,insiders said the same will not apply to Congress ministers. The optics of a minister being subjected to CBI questioning is one that the party would want to avoid and if that happens,Bansals continuance in Rail Bhawan may become difficult.
Both these cases are,however,playing out quite differently within the Congress. In Kumars case,there is a broad consensus to let the Supreme Court arbiter his fate and that the government should then act without favour.
On the other hand,Bansal is drawing more support with senior Congress leaders vouching for his integrity and the party top brass itself inclined to believe that it was just a matter of a relative benefiting from his perceived proximity to the minister. Still,the CBIs arm holds out a significant threat for him,especially if it means questioning him personally.
These were the broad red lines that seemed to be forming even as a nervous Kumar was trying hard to understand the courts mind after the hearing,even to the extent of apparently visiting a senior lawyer associated with the case Wednesday evening.
Meanwhile,the Congress came out in support of the Prime Minister with party spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury emphasising that he had no direct role in this issue. Several individuals have come forward to say that they have full faith that its not the Prime Minister who gave any kind of order for changing any report. I dont think he is involved directly, she said.
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