Pawan Bansal resigns as Railways Minister over bribery charges
Ending days of speculation, Railways Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal resigned from the Union Cabinet on Friday evening.
Sixty-four-year-old Bansal was given the marching orders shortly after Congress President Sonia Gandhi met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh amid growing unease in the party over the controversy surrounding the Railways Minister.
Already battered by a series of scams, the party and the government suffered a severe blow when Bansal's nephew Vijay Singla was arrested last Friday for allegedly accepting Rs.90 lakh as bribe for helping in the promotion of a Railway Board Member Mahesh Kumar.
Media reports that a number of kin of Bansal had benefited from a public sector bank by way of loans when he was Minister of State of Finance earlier further embarrassed the party and the government.
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.
Bansal's exit is expected to trigger a reshuffle in the Council of Ministers over which the Congress President and the Prime Minister will meet on Sunday.
The resuffule, expected next week, may also affect Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, who is also under attack over vetting of CBI report on coal block allocation. Unlike Bansal, Kumar's portfolio may be changed.
Meanwhile, there were unconfirmed reports from Bangalore that Union Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge, who lost out in race for Chief Ministership in Karnataka, told his supporters not to be disheartened because he may be given the Railway portfolio.
Initially the Congress party decided to weather the storm over Bansal but as more and more damning reports surfaced, it had to take a call on asking him to quit.
(With PTI inputs)