A lot to answer for emerging clean

The seat-for-sale scam has seriously tarnished the image of Pawan Kumar Bansal, who rose from being a lesser known student leader to become the face of the Congress in the region.

The 64-year-old leader, whose stature grew immensely in recent years and reached new heights after he was given the railway portfolio in the UPA government, has a lot of questions to answer before he can emerge clean. In Chandigarh, Bansal is known as a soft-spoken and astute politician.

Earlier, as a parliamentary affairs minister, he was called as the UPA’s troubleshooter. His alleged “culpability” in the scam, however, could not have come at a more troubling time for the Centre, which is bogged down with a series of scams and is struggling to pass crucial bills in the Lok Sabha.

That Bansal is considered to be close to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and that he, along with Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, are Union ministers from Punjab, which is the home state of the prime minister, explains some of the UPA’s continued defence for them.

Bansal, unlike Ashwani Kumar, has been a mass leader with an unmatched three successive victories from Chandigarh in 1999, 2004 and 2009. The foundation he laid for the Congress in Chandigarh has left little space for the BJP.

From selecting candidates for polls to deciding the Mayor, Bansal has been calling the shots in the Union territory. Things may not be the same anymore, at least for now.

Political observers said the genesis of Bansal’s latest trouble lies in the involvement of his family in his political career. Bansal’s nephews have been his election agents.

While one of them freely gave the minister’s address as the address of his company, the other nephew Vijay Singla, who has been arrested for taking a bribe to fix a seat in the Railway Board, allegedly used to arrange Bansal’s meeting with industrialists in the city during elections. People see the nephews as Bansal’s “back-stage managers” capable of striking big deals.

The BJP is already sensing victory in Chandigarh. Bansal’s arch-rival Satya Pal Jain is not lagging behind in taking advantage of the situation. In the coming days, the BJP is sure to lock horns with Bansal.

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