Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, under a cloud over his kin’s alleged involvement in bribery for a plum railway board posting, yesterday skipped a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
There is speculation he may be asked to quit. Opposition parties, including the BJP and the CPI-M have demanded Bansal’s resignation after his nephew Vijay Singla was arrested by the CBI for allegedly taking a bribe for the appointment of a member of the Railway Board.
A Delhi court yesterday sent Singla and four others, including prime accused and railway official Mahesh Kumar, to judicial custody till May 20. Singla allegedly accepted a bribe of Rs 90 lakh from Mahesh Kumar for his appointment as member (Electrical) of the powerful Railway Board.
Businessmen NR Manjunath and Sandeep Goyal helped Mahesh Kumar in arranging money to bribe Singla and were to get favours after his appointment as member (Electrical). Four other co-accused — Vivek Kumar, Dharmendra, Rahul Yadav and Samir Sandhir — are already in judicial custody till May 20.
The Congress defended Bansal. “How is the minister answerable? Pawan Bansal has a career of 30-35 years which is clear. He is a simple man and till now, no charges had been levelled against him,” Congress leader Digvijaya Singh. “It is the relative who is answerable not the minister,” he added. “If CBI has proof that Pawan Bansal is involved in this matter, then the Congress will not spare anyone,” Singh said.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari played down Bansal’s absence from the cabinet meeting. “It happens at times, ministers deciding in their wisdom if any item relating to their ministry is not listed,” Tewari said after the cabinet meeting. “The railway minister has welcomed the investigation process and it should be allowed to continue” he said.