New Delhi: 1:07 pm: Trouble is growing for Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal. A Public Interest Litigation in the Punjab and Haryana High Court has revealed preferential allotment of land to Pawan Bansal's family members. 21.26 acres of land in Zirakpur was allotted to railway bribery scam accused Vijay Singla's father Mithan Lal Singla and others. The land worth crores of rupees was leased for 33 years at a rate of just 30,000 per year per acre. While the original lease was for 33 years, the registered document shows a lease of 99 years. The PIL alleges fraud and forgery.
12:32 pm: Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has cancelled his monthly briefing amidst speculation of a Cabinet reshuffle.
12:18 pm: Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal skipped office on Friday, giving more indications that his exit from the Cabinet may be imminent. Bansal had also skipped the Cabinet meet on Thursday even as Law Minister Ashwani Kumar attended it.
The net is now closing in on Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal. His exit now looks highly likely as more reports about business links of his family and aides come out.
In another revelation, a Chartered Accountant with links to companies owned by Pawan Bansal's wife and sons was appointed a director in the Canara Bank when Bansal was MoS Finance.
Canara Bank gave loans worth crores to the company owned by the Bansal family. The same bank had earlier granted loans worth Rs 25 crore to a company run by Bansal's nephew Vijay Singla, who is now in CBI custody in the cash for jobs scam in the Indian Railways.
Meanwhile, CBI sources say they will dig for more evidence before they seek to question the Railway Minister. There is no direct money trail established in the Railway bribery case with Pawan Kumar Bansal so far, according to sources in the CBI.
However, the pressure is also growing on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Bansal as well as Law Minister Ashwani Kumar. Congress President Sonia Gandhi has told Manmohan Singh to take a final decision on Ashwani Kumar and Pawan Kumar Bansal. Sources say Sonia Gandhi feels that the damage must be controlled and spoke to Manmohan Singh on Thursday. The Congress Core Committee will meet this weekend and a decision is likely.
This comes even as reports say Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is not keen on Law Minister Ashwani Kumar's removal. Sources add that Manmohan Singh is worried that if Ashwani Kumar goes, he too will come under further opposition fire. One of the solutions being worked out is that Ashwani Kumar's portfolio be changed.
Sources have also told CNN-IBN that Railway Minister Pawan Bansal might not survive the cash for appointments controversy. He skipped the Cabinet meet on Thursday, sparking further speculations of his exit.