New Delhi: Congress President Sonia Gandhi has told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take a final decision on Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and Railway Minister 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 on Friday 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.
However, later on, the party, while downplaying reports of Bansal's absence at the meet, said that he had welcomed CBI probe into the Railway Board bribery scandal, in which his nephew Vijay Singla is an accused and is in jail. Reports also said that the Congress was now looking to change the portfolio of Ashwani Kumar as a way out.
"Government is seized of the matter. Let us wait. This decision will be taken by the government. It will be done between the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleague," party spokesperson Renuka Chowdhary said.
She made the remarks after a meeting Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi had with the party spokespersons as also AICC general secretaries Janardan Dwivedi who is the in-charge of AICC media department.
"I am not an astrologer. How can I predict what is going to happen? These are probabilities, these are possibilities. We cannot say anything about it at this time. A process is on. As long as this process does not culminate, we cannot preempt any of the issue.... The matter is sub-judice. We cannot preempt a reply," Chowdhary said.
Meanwhile, the demand for Bansal's exit has been growing. Former Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi said Bansal must step down. Speaking to IBN18 Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai, Trivedi said, "A minister should not deal with any thing related to transfers, posting and appointments, any files related with tender. There are manipulations obviously. He has to step aside pending inquiry. Anybody with a little bit of morality will do it."
Former IPS officer Kiran Bedi said the rot has reached the PMO. "All these appointments are cleared by the PMO. How can the Railway Minister be so brazen that he'll get money through the nephew or the nephew will get money. How will the nephew pay such a huge amount without being assured of appointment," she questioned.