2 mantris sacked in a day

Union railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and Union law minister Ashwani Kumar resigned on Friday after being ordered to do so. Mr Bansal quit as he grew more embroiled each day in the “cash for job” Railway Board scandal and Mr Bansal lost his job in the face of charges that he vetted the CBI’s draft report on its probe of the coal block allocation scam.
The ministers’ fates were sealed after Congress president Sonia Gandhi met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and it was decided that the two ministers should be asked to put in their papers to contain further damage to the government. “Yes, I have resigned,” said the 64-year-old Mr Bansal on emerging from a meeting with the Prime Minister a week after his nephew was arrested for allegedly accepting `90 lakh from a Railway Board member in return for a promise of promotion. Mr Bansal and Mr Kumar met the PM separately at his 7, Race Course Road residence on Friday night.
Mrs Gandhi and Dr Singh took the decision as there was growing unease in the party that the continuance of the two ministers was eroding the credibility of the government, which has been battling scams and controversies for the last three years.
In his resignation letter, Mr Bansal said he was unaware that his nephew was in contact with Railway Board member Mahesh Kumar but that he still thought it proper to step down. He said he looked forward to an expeditious investigation. Mr Ashwani Kumar’s resignation letter said he was quitting to put an end to “unnecessary controversy” and “public perception of any wrongdoing” and that the Supreme Court had not passed any strictures against him. A statement from the government on the issue is expected on Saturday.
Mr Bansal even fed a goat at his residence earlier in the day, a ritual considered lucky, but to no avail. There were rumours later that the goat had been sacrificed but there was no confirmation of the fate of the “scapegoat”. Mr Bansal was seen feeding the goat while his wife Madhu also attended the prayer.
Mr Bansal’s exit is expected to trigger a reshuffle in the Union Cabinet over which the Congress president and the PM will meet on Sunday. The reshuffle is expected next week. There were unconfirmed reports from Bengaluru that Union labour minister Mallikarjun Kharge, who lost out in the race for the chief ministership of Karnataka, told his supporters not to be disheartened because he may be given the railway portfolio.
The Congress party initially decided to weather the storm over Mr Bansal but as more and more damning reports surfaced, it had to take a call on asking him to quit.
Coalgate and Railgate had dominated the second part of the Budget Session of Parliament which failed to transact any business other than financial bills due to the Opposition’s tough stand against the two ministers.
The government, which suffered a severe blow when the Railway Board scam surfaced, was embarrassed further with more media reports emerging about a relative of Mr Bansal benefiting from a public sector bank by way of loans when Mr Bansal was minister of state for finance. The continuance of the two ministers became untenable. Mr Bansal had skipped the Cabinet meeting on Thursday, the first indication that he was on his way out. The ministers were given their marching orders shortly after the meeting between Mrs Gandhi and Dr Singh.
The Congress party, meanwhile, broke its silence on the two ministers. Party spokesperson Bhakta Charan Das made clear the Congress “will not tolerate corruption ... and is not going to spare anybody mired in corruption”. “Anybody involved in any kind of manipulation will not be spared,” Mr Das said.
After the 2G, CWG, coal block allocation, Adarsha housing and VIP helicopter scams, the “cash for job” controversy exposed the government to further attack. Already battered, the arrest of Mr Bansal’s nephew, Mr Vijay Singla, last Friday added to the troubles of the party and the government.

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