Cong core panel won't demand Bansal's head

Seat for sale: Railway minister says he had no clue about incident

Cong core panel won't demand Bansal's head

As the UPA government plunged into a fresh crisis following the arrest of a nephew of Railway minister Pawan Bansal in  a bribery scandal, the Congress appeared to be brazening it out and defending the Chandigarh MP.

The Congress core committee of top leaders held an hour-long meeting on Saturday. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, party chief Sonia Gandhi and others discussed the issue at the meeting and decided not to press for Bansal’s resignation. As the party defended him, the minister too ruled out his resignation.

Bansal’s nephew Vijay Singla, Railway Board Member (Staff) Mahesh Kumar, and one Narayan Rao Manjunath, Managing Director of the Bangalore-based GG Tronics India Pvt Ltd, besides three others, were arrested in connection with the bribery scandal  on Friday. Singla, according to CBI, demanded a bribe of Rs 10 crore to make Kumar,  Member (Electrical), seen as a lucrative post in the railway ministry.

On Saturday, a CBI special court granted the agency their custody till May 8. Kumar, arrested in Mumbai on Friday, was not produced before the court in Delhi.

Bansal, distancing himself from the bribery charges and his nephew, said in a statement: “Regarding yesterday’s (Friday’s) incident involving my sister’s son in a CBI raid at Chandigarh, I have to say that I had no knowledge or clue about the matter at all.

Though a close relative, he or any other relative of mine does not and cannot meddle in my official functions or influence my decisions. There is also no business relationship between his and my family,” he said. “I have always observed highest standards of probity in public life and look forward to an expeditious investigation by the CBI in this matter.”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, under pressure to sack Bansal, summoned the minister  and held a 40-minute meeting with him. The minister, it was understood, offered to quit.

Congress chief spokesman Janardhan Dwivedi said there was no question of Bansal
resigning and termed the BJP demand for his resignation as “a disease”.

“The Railway Minster has given his explanation and has offered to resign. I don't think there is anything more he can do," Dwivedi said. Before the core committee meeting, Singh and Gandhi also had a word with Bansal.

The arrest of Bansal’s nephew and demand for Bansal’s resignation comes at a time when Parliament has been non-functional following Opposition disruption, demanding resignation of law minister Ashwani Kumar for interfering in the report of the CBI in the coal scam.

There was no word yet on whether the CBI would interrogate Bansal in the case. Also it was not known if Singla was acting at the behest of Bansal.

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