M A I N   N E W S

House logjam persists as Cong, BJP dig in heels
Govt continues to back Bansal, Ashwani Kumar; BJP says sack them
Aditi Tandon/TNS

Cabinet rejig to deflect criticism?
Indications are that the Government might consider a Cabinet reshuffle route to control the damage
Sacking of the ministers might be interpreted as government succumbing to BJP pressure
A Cabinet reshuffle, in any case, is awaited with six posts of Ministers of State lying vacant

New Delhi, May 7
The government came out openly to defend beleaguered Union Ministers Pawan Bansal and Ashwani Kumar at the cost of vital food security and land acquisition Bills on which the Opposition again stalled Parliament today and defy BJP’s pressure to sack them in the wake of railgate and coalgate, respectively. This despite that senior Congress leaders sounded uneasy with the way things were going, mirroring a disconnect between the government and the party on the vital issue of propriety.

Both the Houses were adjourned for the day without transacting any business with the BJP insisting it wouldn’t allow Bills to pass unless the UPA removed the two ministers.

While the government decided to hold its ground following two meetings —one between the Prime Minister and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and the other of the Congress Core Group — it did feel the heat from within the Congress with senior leaders expressing unhappiness over the goings on.

Party sources admitted there was dissonance between the government and the party on the issue of protecting Bansal and Kumar “at the cost of Congress’ reputation”. The government is under pressure from within to address the issue “considering public perception on the matter is against the UPA”, as a senior minister put it.

Indications are that the government, instead of sacking Bansal and Kumar and being seen to be succumbing to BJP pressure, might consider a Cabinet reshuffle route to control the damage. A Cabinet reshuffle in any case is awaited with six posts of Ministers of State lying vacant and a Cabinet position in the Chemicals and Fertilisers Ministry also vacant.

“After Karnataka election results tomorrow, someone from the Centre would have to be sent as Chief Minister there. A Cabinet reshuffle is already in the pipeline. One possibility to deal with the current crisis is to carry out a reshuffle,” a top UPA source said.

“The majority view in the party is against the continuation of both Bansal and Kumar. In fact, Bansal should have resigned pending the probe keeping the highest traditions of propriety in mind.

But the move to retain Kumar and Bansal is not being appreciated. It is not known what decision is being taken where,” a senior Congress leader said. Party sources added that the question was not simply of BJP’s pressure but also of public preception which was increasingly turning against the Government.

When asked whether the ministers were more important for the Government than the important Bills, Congress spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit said, “These are two different issues. The BJP is linking them to gain political mileage. It is preventing the Parliament from passing pro-people laws.”

Officially, Congress’ defence of Bansal remained, “He has not been probed by the CBI”. On Kumar, the line is, “We will await the Supreme Court observations on the matter which is coming up for hearing tomorrow”. Privately though, top Congress leaders admitted it would become extremely untenable to defend Bansal if the CBI questioned him in the case. 





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