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May 13, 2013 at 06:46pm IST

Is the government distancing itself from Ashwani Kumar?

New Delhi: It seems that the government is distancing itself from sacked Law Minister Ashwani Kumar. Sources say that the government had prepared a statement to defend Ashwani Kumar after he resigned, however, it did not release that statement. Sources say the statement said, "Ashwani resigned because of perception and his resignation should not be seen as corruption. He has not been indicted by the Supreme Court in any way."

Ashwani was considered close to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a factor which is said to have played a role in the delay and dilly-dallying over his exit from the Union Cabinet after the controversy broke out over his meeting with the CBI Director and making changes in the the agency's draft probe report on Coalgate.

Meanwhile, a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was forced to sack Ashwani Kumar as Law Minister and Pawan Kumar Bansal as Railway Minister, the Congress party has given full credit to party President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi for taking action against the tainted ministers. "Congress President and Rahul Gandhi never tolerate corruption and that is why they took the resignation of the two ministers," Congress spokesperson Bhata Charan Das said.

Speculation is now rife over other government officials facing the axe. The fate of the Coal Ministry and PMO officials and A-G Ghoolam Vahanvati who attended the meeting with former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, where changes were made to the CBI status report on coal allocations, also hangs in the balance.

This even as a major Cabinet reshuffle is likely next week. Mallikarjun Kharge is likely to get Railways and Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal may become the new the Law Minister. The exit of the two ministers came only after Congress president Sonia Gandhi met the Prime Minister and asked for their removal.

But the resignations took some time coming after the government, facing opposition fire on one hand and worried about protecting the Prime Minister on the other, had done its calculation. The first step was adjourning Parliament on a day when it won a majority in Karnataka. The second step was sending clear signals that the Congress President was unhappy with the way things had shaped up.

It now remains to be seen whether the resignations will stop the Opposition attacks on the Prime Minister or will it further strength their demand for his resignation.

IBN18 Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai says that by sacking Ashwani Kumar and Pawan Kumar Bansal, the government has made a last ditch attempt to restore its fading credibility. Clearly serious questions will be asked as to just why the Prime Minister took so long to take this decision to sack his ministers. "Clearly there will also be questions as to whether the Prime Minister can completely insulate himself after the sacking of Ashwani Kumar," Rajdeep Sardesai said.

"The Congress and the UPA government is hoping that by taking the heads of Ashwani Kumar and Pawan Kumar Bansal, the Opposition clamour for resignations will die down automatically to that extent, they are hoping that the government and the Prime Minister in particular will get some kind of a reprieve. But either way a long, cruel and hot summer lies ahead of the Congress and the UPA government. There's already talk of another cabinet reshuffle next week as the UPA makes a last attempt at an image makeover. Will that be successful? The jury is out. All that can be said is a week is a long time in politics. And this has been a week where the UPA has suffered enormous damage to its credibility," he added.

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