New Delhi: Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, who is facing allegations of being involved in the cash for jobs scam in the Indian Railways, visited Rail Bhawan on Friday. Bansal has not been attending office for the last two days. He reportedly went to Rail Bhawan on Friday to clear his files.
The net is closing in on the Railway Minister following allegations that his family members were involved in corrupt practices. Bansal has stopped attending office, a sign perhaps that he is on the way out. He did not attend Thursday's Cabinet meet as well even as Law Minister Ashwani Kumar was present there.
Several family members and aides of Bansal are under scrutiny for alleged corruption. It has now emerged that 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 allegedly 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.
In more trouble, 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.
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.
But CNN-IBN has now learnt that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is under immense pressure to act agaisnt Pawan Kumar Bansal Ashwani Kumar. Top congress sources have told CNN-IBN that Congress President Sonia Gandhi wants the two ministers to go at the earliest before they do any further damage to the government's reputation. The decision on Bansal and Ashwani is likely by this weekend when the Congress core group meets to decide on their political fate.
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. But Bansal may be in trouble and is likely to be sacked from Cabinet.
The Congress core group will meet on Saturday and sources have said a decision on Bansal and Ashwani is likely to be taken in the meeting.