Cornered Congress fires Ashwani Kumar, Pawan Kumar Bansal

FPPawan Kumar Bansal and Ashwani Kumar

Ending speculation on their fate, Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and Law Minister Ashwani Kumar resigned on Friday evening. They were given marching orders three hours after Congress president Sonia Gandhi met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

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Bansal, who had taken over the Railway Ministry last October, found himself at the centre of a huge controversy after the CBI caught his nephew Vijay Singla accepting Rs 90 lakh in cash as bribe for a lucrative posting for a senior Railway official last week.

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Law Minister Ashwani Kumar had been in the eye of a storm for vetting the CBI report on coal block allocations. The CBI had admitted to changes in its report when it filed an affidavit to the Supreme Court which took a strong exception to the Minister's act.

The Indian Express had first reported in its edition of April 13 that the CBI chief was likely to inform the court that Kumar and the PMO had vetted the report and suggested a number of changes, some of which were incorporated by the CBI. The report triggered an uproar from the opposition and led to continuous disruptions in Parliament.

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The ruling dispensation had earlier decided to defend the beleaguered ministers and chosen to brazen it out with the Opposition, even sacrificing the post-recess Budget session of Parliament which could not transact any business due to disruptions by Opposition parties.

A clear hint about action against Bansal came when Congress spokesman Bhakt Charan Das said the party will not spare anybody "mired" in corruption or manipulation.

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