Web of corruption

Except for the rare event that the man who took the bribe and the one who gave it were caught, the incidents involving a nephew of railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal,  a railway board member and possibly the minister have all the makings of a classic case of bribery. The  responses of  the minister and his party also have all the elements of evasion and  cover-up.

A sum of Rs 90 lakh was being passed on to the nephew, Vijay Singla,  in hard cash at a mall in Chandigarh when the CBI caught the man and the person who gave it. The person from whom the money came, who was arrested in Mumbai, has said that the money was the consideration for an expected favour from the railway ministry. The persons and the money can be connected only in a web of corruption and yet the minister and his party are in denial.

Outwardly it is a case of circumstantial evidence of corruption. But it would mock anybody’s common sense if the minister claimed, as he has done, that he had nothing to do with the money that came to his nephew. The bribe-giver wanted a promotion to a more lucrative position. The minister could help him in that, though he says that only a cabinet committee could take that decision. But we know what the committee would do when the minister expresses his interest in the matter.  Bansal says he had no business relations with his nephew. But it is well-known that Vijay Singla was the minister’s political and business manager in Chandigarh. This is standard practice. A relative or a close friend acts as the agent in deals for ministers or officials. If the bribe becomes public, there is an escape route: I have nothing to do with him.

Bansal has offered to resign. His party says he need not resign because he is ready to face an enquiry. Readiness for an enquiry is in fact a sign of guilt in our vitiated times. There is more than enough reason for the minister to resign. In public perception, the money was certainly meant for him. He can resign, face an enquiry or case and prove that it was not for him. That will be a legal victory. But people will  still continue to believe that the money was for him. The circumstances are such that he cannot claim and does not deserve the benefit of the doubt.

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