M A I N   N E W S

Bansal, Ashwani sacked
Cong acts after govt forced on backfoot over a series of scandals

KV Prasad/TNS

New Delhi, May 10
The Congress tonight directed the government to remove Union Ministers Pawan Bansal and Ashwani Kumar from the Council of Minister after having resisted the fusillade from the Opposition gunning for their removal in the wake of allegations of varying nature.

On a day marked by high drama, the party told the Ministers to put in their papers, barely a week after the Congress core group decided that the party’s political decisions could not be dictated to by the opposition such as the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left.

Cabinet reshuffle likely soon

The Congress reportedly arrived at a decision on Bansal and Ashwani after party president Sonia Gandhi met PM Manmohan Singh on Friday

Bansal and Kumar’s exit is expected to trigger a reshuffle in the Council of Ministers over which Sonia and Manmohan will meet on Sunday. The reshuffle is expected next week

Unconfirmed reports said Union Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge, who lost out in the race for Chief Ministership in Karnataka, told supporters he may be given the Railways portfolio

Both the Ministers, Bansal and Kumar, confirmed separately and individually to The Tribune they had submitted their resignations to the Prime Minister. Sources in the PMO said Bansal maintained that he was not personally involved in the activities of his nephew Vijay Singla, arrested by the CBI for alleged bribery. Kumar reportedly said that even though there were strictures against him by the Supreme Court, he wanted to spare the Government from any embarrassment.

While the BJP and others in the opposition exulted over the exit of these two Ministers, considered close to the Prime Minister, the decision to read the riot act to them came after Congress president Sonia Gandhi called on Manmohan Singh this evening.

The decision to show the door to these two Ministers came on the day Parliament would otherwise was schedule to end the Budget session. The second half of the crucial session was truncated this week after the Opposition stalled proceedings of both the Houses demanding the resignation of Ashwani Kumar on coal blocks allocation issue and Bansal after his nephew was arrested by the CBI for allegedly taking a bribe of Rs 90 lakh from a senior officer of the Railways for a positing in the all-important Railway Board.

With this, two of three Ministers from the Northern region who were inducted into the Union Cabinet last October have been relieved of their charge.

Bansal and Kumar were given the key portfolios last year along with Manish Tewari in the reshuffle that the PM declared was the last such exercise by UPA-II.

The government now has the arduous task of filling the vacancies caused not just by the latest resignations but also the exit of the Ministers from the quota held by its former ally, the DMK.

‘Puja’ didn’t work for Bansal

In a day of fast-paced developments, former Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal did everything to avoid the inevitable.

Reports said the minister sought divine intervention by conducting a “pooja” at his official residence before going to office after a day’s gap.

Bansal, sources said, held prayers at his official residence to which a goat was brought for feeding. His wife Madhu also attended the prayers.

The minister then went to his Rail Bhavan office after the ‘pooja’.

Bansal had yesterday remained confined to his Ashoka Road residenceand did not even attend office, with sources close to him saying he was
not well. — PTI





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