Cong goes soft on Bansal, Ashwani
The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) on Sunday decided against seeking the resignation of Railway Minister P K Bansal, whose nephew was arrested in a bribery case, as also Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, who is in the eye of the storm over the coalgate controversy.
The Opposition had demanded that the two ministers quit in the wake of the charges against them.
A Congress core group meeting held at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence also decided to convene a meeting of its MPs and spokespersons on Monday to evolve a strategy to counter attack its political opponents. This was the second core group meeting after Bansal got embroiled in the controversy. The first meeting on Saturday was inconclusive.
As both Bansal and Kumar were reportedly handpicked by the prime minister, the party thinks that if they are sacked at this juncture, it will be a setback for him, sources said.
The decision of the Congress leadership to back the two ministers is expected to escalate the deadlock in Parliament, which has failed to do any business since the second phase of the Budget session resumed on April 22.
After the deliberations of the meeting, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari ruled out the resignation of Bansal and Kumar.
“There is a probe going on, let the result come. We will decide after that,” Tewari said.
“My request to all of you would be, since the honourable railway minister has welcomed the investigation, let the investigation fructify. I don’t think it is in keeping with the Indian jurisprudence to prejudge or pre-decide issues,” Tewari said.
He even quoted NDA Convener and JD-U chief Sharad Yadav’s defence of Bansal to make an attack on the BJP.
Yadav reportedly said, “Resignation does not augur well for democracy.”
On Ashwani Kumar, Tewari said the matter is sub judice and a decision will be taken after the Supreme Court's decision.
Bansal's resignation is being demanded in the wake of the arrest of his nephew by the CBI on the charge of accepting a bribe to fix a plum position in the Railway Board.
The call for sacking Kumar is over the allegation that he had interfered in the preparation of a CBI status report on coal allocation scam issue to the Supreme Court. The CBI is likely to give a fresh affidavit explaining the nature of interference to the Supreme Court on Monday.
Waiting for SC verdict
According to sources, the prime minister is of the view that the government should wait till the apex court gives its order on the CBI report on May 8.
Apart from the prime minister and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, the meeting was also attended by Defence Minister A K Antony. Sonia’s Political Secretary Ahmad Patel also held a detailed discussion on the fallout of the scandals and the Parliament logjam.
Before the meeting, Sonia Gandhi held consultations with Antony and Ahmed Patel on the issue.
"Two parallel processes are playing themselves out. There is a trial in the public domain and there is an investigation process.The Supreme Court itself has said that till proved otherwise, a person should be treated as innocent," Tewari said.
He dismissed suggestions that the Congress leadership was applying different yardsticks for different leaders and had taken resignation of Ashok Chavan as Maharashtra Chief Minister in similar circumstances.
Tewari remarked: “There are no different forks for different folks. If any parallels are sought to be drawn they are erroneous."