New Delhi: After days of sustained pressure, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was finally forced to act against his ministers charged with corruption and interference. Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal were both forced to quit on Friday. Both of them called on the Prime Minister on Friday evening and submitted their resignations. While Ashwani Kumar was sacked for interfering in CBI's coalgate probe report, Pawan Bansal was sacked over the Railway bribery scam.
The resignations came only after Congress president Sonia Gandhi met the Prime Minister and urged action against the two ministers. CNN-IBN has learnt that a Cabinet reshuffle could happen as early as next week, with Mallikarjun Kharge likely to get the Railway Ministry.
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.
But the biggest question is as to why it took so long for the government to secure these resignations. With the Law Minister resigning, what happens to the Attorney General and PMO official who attended the meeting with him where CBI status report was changed? And can the Prime Minister still maintain that he didn't know anything about what was being done by the Law Minister?
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.
After Ashwani Kumar, PM should resign: BJP
The BJP stepped up its pressure on the government by demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after the resignations of Railway Minister and Law Minister, saying the "consequences should follow."
"Now, there is no logic in the Prime Minister's continuance. Having decided to drop the Law Minister who was protecting the Prime Minister, then the consequences should follow. The consequence is that the Prime Minister must resign now," BJP leader LK Advani told PTI.
Describing the resignation of Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and Law Minister Ashwani Kumar as a step taken "too late", BJP charged the government with "wasting" precious time of Parliament by not agreeing to its demand earlier and allowing it to function.
(With additional information from PTI)