Cong says decision taken jointly by PM, Sonia

Ministers' sacking: Party high command wanted to maintain positive momentum

Cong says decision taken jointly by PM, Sonia

Two days after Union Ministers Ashwani Kumar and Pawan Bansal were given marching orders at the initiative of Sonia Gandhi, the ruling Congress on Sunday sought to quell the perception that the party president and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were on a different page.

“This perception is not correct. The correct position is that it was the joint decision of the Congress President and Prime Minister,” party General Secretary and media cell in-charge Janardan Dwivedi said.

This is the second time in the last two months Dwivedi had to come out and clarify that the two power centres in the nine-year-old United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government were not working at cross purposes.

Earlier in March, Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh’s remarks that a system with two power centres in the government did not work well, had elicited a rap on the knuckles from the party. “The relationship which has existed between Sonia Gandhi as the party President and Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister is something, which is not usually seen everywhere and is unique. I think, for any democracy, this is an ideal model even for the future,” Dwivedi had then said.

Considered close to the Prime Minister, both Bansal and Kumar were forced to resign from their ministerial positions on Friday soon after Gandhi met Singh at his 7 RCR residence on Friday.

The Congress decided to drop the two Ministers from Cabinet over controversies surrounding them after party’s victory in Karnataka Assembly polls. The party high command wanted the two ministers to be out from the Union Cabinet to maintain the “positive momentum” generated from the poll victory as it was a verdict against corruption.

Before the Karnataka poll results came, however, the ruling party had been non-committal over the fate of the two ministers even as the Opposition led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) did not allow the second part of the Budget Session of Parliament function properly even for a single day since it began on April 22.

Resignations of Bansal and Kumar followed by Gandhi’s meeting with Singh fuelled speculation that the Congress president’s displeasure over their continuance in the Cabinet prevailed over the two Minister’s proximity with the Prime Minister.

Citing media reports, BJP leader L K Advani also took a dig at the Prime Minister, suggesting that he should now call it a day as he appeared to have "abdicated" his right to decide on his Cabinet. “Has the PM  abdicated his right even to decide about his own Cabinet? Today's news reports about the removal of two Union Ministers generally emphasise that, it is Soniaji who has sacked two PM’s men,” he wrote in his blog.

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