New Delhi: The Congress core group which met on Saturday evening to discuss Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal's resignation in connection with a bribery scandal has not made any decision yet. Bansal's nephew Vijay Singla is accused of taking money from Mahesh Kumar to make him member of the Railway board's electrical arm.
Sources said that Bansal explained his position to the Congress top brass. Bansal in his defence reportedly said that he hasn't spoken to his nephew for a while. The Union Minister also said that he never discussed any appointments with his nephew.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has got a four-day custody of Singla and three others in connection with the bribery scandal. The investigative agency on Saturday told the court that they need to find out the source of Rs 90 lakh and who was the ultimate beneficiary.
Other than Singla and Mahesh Kumar, Sandip Goyal and three others who allegedly brokered the deal have been arrested. All of them except Mahesh Kumar were produced in a Delhi court on Saturday.
Bansal, who met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his residence 7RCR earlier in the day, had offered to quit over the Railway Board bribery controversy. Sources, however, said no decision has been yet taken on Bansal's offer and the final call is likely to be taken at the ongoing Congress core group meeting.
Meanwhile, the Congress has come out strongly in his defence with party leader Janardhan Dwivedi ridiculing the Opposition's demand for his sacking. Sources said that the Congress core group meeting is likely to discuss the issue as well. Bansal has denied any hand in the matter, and has said he is ready for a CBI probe.
Bansal, who was at 7RCR for 20 minutes, left the Prime Minister's residence without speaking to reporters. "The Railway Minster his given his explanation and has offered to resign. I don't think there is anything more that he can do," said Congress leader Janardhan Dwivedi.
The party had earlier also said that there was no need for Bansal to resign over the issue as he had already explained his position both to the government and the party. The Railway Minister had issued a statement distancing himself from his nephew, who was arrested by the CBI on Friday night in a case of bribery for allegedly fixing a top level position in Railway Board. Bansal had claimed that he has no business links with him and had denied any wrongdoing. "Regarding yesterday's incident involving my sister's firm in a CBI raid at Chandigarh, I have to say that I have no knowledge or proof about the matter at all. Though a close relative, he or any other relative of mine does not and cannot meddle in my official function or influence my decision. There is also no business relationship between his and my family," the 64-year-old Union Minister said in a statement. "I have always observed highest standard of probity in public life and look forward to an expeditious investigation by CBI in the matter", he added.
The Opposition, however, was 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) said 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," said BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad.
He also reiterated his party's demand for PM's resignation saying he has "no moral right left to govern India because under his leadership, India is getting established as the most corrupt country in the world". "Congress has reduced government to a bazaar, where every decision is tradeable," said Prasad.
While the Trinamool Congress called it a "sad day for Indian Railways", the CPM also demanded Bansal's resignation. The Aam Aadmi Party said all the contracts awarded in Bansal's tenure should be probed.
Singla was on Friday arrested by the CBI, which also held a Member of the Railway Board - Mahesh Kumar - in connection with alleged bribery of Rs 90 lakh for fixing a top level position in the government. Singla was arrested in Chandigarh for allegedly accepting Rs 90 lakh in cash from Manjunath, the conduit of Mahesh Kumar, recently promoted as Member (Staff) and trying to get a lucrative position as Member (Electrical). Kumar was arrested in Mumbai by a CBI team soon after he had flown in from Delhi. CBI has registered a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act and the IPC against him. The other person arrested by the CBI was Sandip Goyal, who allegedly assisted in brokering the deal.
Kumar was General Manager (Western railways) and promoted recently as Member Railway Board, a post equivalent to Secretary in Government of India. He will be produced in the special CBI court post on Saturday to seek a transit remand to New Delhi. The Railway Minister, however, has not yet ordered any departmental inquiry into the matter. The Railway Board had recently appointed Subodh Jain as Member (Engineering), Mahesh Kumar as Member (Staff) and Arunendra Kumar as Member (Mechanical). The post of Member (Traffic) is yet to be filled up. The chairman of Railway Board is retiring in June along with the Finance Commissioner and the entire Railway Board is expected to see new faces.
Singla, Mahesh Kumar and Sandip Goyal are likely to be brought to New Delhi on Saturday.
How the bribery controversy puts UPA in a deeper crisis
- The bribery row couldn't be timed worse - Karnataka votes on Sunday and Parliament resumes on Monday.
- If Pawan Kumar Bansal quits, the Opposition will demand Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Law Minister Ashwini Kumar's resignation in the coal scam.
- The UPA government is thin on numbers and its ally Samajwadi Party (SP) has been threatening to pull out.
- Disruptions in Parliament have held up key legislations, such as the Land Acquisition Bill and the Food Security Bill.