New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is still not keen on Law Minister Ashwani Kumar's exit, sources said on Thursday. The sources said that the PM's main worry was that he would be in the line of fire if Ashwani resigned.
At the Cabinet meet at the PM's residence, the solution offered was changing the portfolio of Ashwani Kumar.
Meanwhile, sources added that Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal is unlikely to stay on. The minister had skipped the Cabinet meet. Sources said that his departure is only a "matter of time".
Even though the clamour to sack Ashwani had been growing ever since the CBI admission before the Supreme Court that the Law Minister was privy to the coal scam report and even got a few changes made in it, the government had been of the view that no decision should be taken on him under pressure from the opposition parties.
As Parliament was adjourned sine die on Wednesday after Karnataka Assembly results went in favour of the Congress, a decision on the two ministers was imminent.
Even though both Ashwani and Bansal are considered close to Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi had been very firm that the image of the Congress, already on the back foot on corruption, must not be allowed to take any more beating and any individual whose actions were detrimental to the fight against corruption should be asked to go.
Earlier on Thursday, Ashwani and Attorney General GE Vahanvati had gone to meet Manmohan Singh, just a day after the Supreme Court came down heavily on the government and the CBI for sharing the coal scam probe report. While Vahanvati was able to meet Manmohan, Ashwani had no such luck as the Prime Minister had left for the Rastrapati Bhawan to meet President Pranab Mukherjee.
Vahanvati, Ashwani Kumar and the two officials of the PMO and the Coal Ministry have been accused by the CBI in its affidavit of suggesting changes to its report on coalgate. Vahanvati, however, has sought to deflect charges against him, saying he never sought a copy of the report and that he acted as per the instructions of the Law Minister. "My meeting with CBI officials took place only on suggestions of the Law Minister," he had told the Supreme Court.