New Delhi: The BJP on Sunday launched an all out attack on Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and questioned his business links with his nephews. Meanwhile, protests were held outside Pawan Kumar Bansal's Chandigarh residence. ABVP protesters burned effigies of the Railway Minister and raised slogans against him. The police resorted to lathicharge to disperse the protesting crowd.
Rajya Sabha Opposition leader Ravi Shakar Prasad on Sunday said that the Congress is saving Bansal. "It is an open and shut case. Rs 2 crore bribe was to be paid to one of Bansal's relative. Congress should stop looting this country. We are asking for the minister's resignation only because the Congress is looting this country."
The Congress core group is expected to meet shortly to take a decision on Bansal. Defence Minister AK Antony met Congress President Sonia Gandhi ahead of the meeting.
Sources said that the Congress will take a decision on Bansal after the Karnataka polls close on Sunday and before Parliament session begins on Monday. Sources added that if the Union Minister's involvement in the bribery case is traced, the party would prefer that he resigns before more damage is done.
Bansal had offered to resign after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested his nephew Vijay Singla on Friday evening for allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs 90 lakh to ensure a plum posting for Railway Board Member Mahesh Kumar.
Singla along with three other suspects was sent to four days of CBI custody in connection with the bribery scandal on Saturday. Other than Singla and Mahesh Kumar, Sandip Goyal and three others - who allegedly brokered the deal - have also been arrested. All of them except Mahesh Kumar were produced in a Delhi court on Saturday.
The bribery controversy reportedly also came up in the Congress core group meeting on Saturday, but no decision was taken on Bansal then. Sources had said that Bansal explained his position to the Congress top brass. The minister reportedly said he hasn't spoken to his nephew for a while. Bansal also said that he never discussed any appointments with his Singla.
Bansal, who met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his residence 7RCR on Saturday afternoon, had offered to quit over the Railway Board bribery controversy.
The Opposition has been pushing hard for Bansal's resignation. Alleging that because Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi protect their ministers, they indulge in corrupt activities, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demanded on Saturday that the CBI should prosecute Bansal. "This government is no more a common man's government. It is a government of dealers, brokers and middlemen. All decisions of the Government of India are on sale," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad had said.
Meanwhile, the CBI on Saturday arrested one more accused in the Railway bribery scandal. Rahul Yadav, one of the middlemen, named in the FIR, was arrested by the agency, CBI sources said.
Earlier on Saturday, two courier boys, who allegedly delivered Rs 90 lakh cash as bribe to Bansal's nephew for fixing the promotion of a Railway Board member, were arrested by the agency. So far seven persons, including Bansal's nephew Vijay Singla, Railway Board Member (Staff) Mahesh Kumar, middlemen Sandip Goyal and Manjunath, have been arrested in connection with the case.
Singla, who is a close aide of Bansal and was regularly seen in election campaigning alongside had allegedly demanded Rs 10 crore for getting Kumar posted as member (electrical) which is considered next to Railway Board chairman in hierarchy.
With Additional Inputs from PTI