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Beleaguered ministers Bansal and Ashwani Kumar resign

Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and Law Minister Ashwani Kumar on Friday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and submitted their resignations after the Congress leadership decided they should go, informed sources said.

Kumar, a Rajya Sabha MP and also considered close to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, had been under fire for longer than Bansal.

64-year-old Bansal and 60-year-old Kumar were given the marching orders shortly after Congress President Sonia Gandhi met the Prime Minister amid growing unease in the party over the controversy surrounding the Railway Minister.

Ashwani Kumar has been under fire after the Supreme Court flayed the CBI for allowing the law ministry to vet the draft of their probe report on Coalgate. 

Bansal has since reached the Rail Bhavan, after a gap of two days, and is reportedly clearing files.

Bansal is under fire over a bribery scandal involving his nephew, who received payments from a Railway Board officer in return for a promotion.

Pawan Bansal
Pawan Bansal

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.

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.

To a specific question on whether the Law Minister should resign as enough controversy surrounding his role on CBI's draft report on coal has happened, Das said tersely "what he would do, it is up to him. How can I say he should do this or that? I do not exist in the heart of Ashwani Kumar and in the mind of Ashwani Kumar."

To a question on whether he means that action will be taken against both Bansal and Kumar, he said "... anybody involved in any kind of manipulation cannot be spared. So far Ashwini Kumar is concerned, CBI and the Supreme Court are looking into the issue. It depends on the instruction of the Supreme Court." 

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