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May 11, 2013 at 10:22pm IST

Congress credits Sonia for Ashwani, Bansal's exit, PM stands isolated

New Delhi: With the sacking of Ashwani Kumar and Pawan Bansal as Law Minister and Railways Minister, the heat is now on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The new Law Minister will have to shield the PM even as there's a widening divide between him and his party. Ashwani's exit has left the PM vulnerable, and even lonely.

Within hours of the former law minister's resignation, BJP targeted the PM, raising the worry that if the SC gives adverse comments in July, it's the PM who stands directly in the line of fire. BJP President Rajnath Singh pressed for the PM's resignation, asking, "Who gave the orders (to Ashwani Kumar) for meeting the CBI director?"

The PM has chosen Kapil Sibal as the new Law Minister, whose biggest challenge would be to provide a shield to him, similar to what he did as Telecom Minister during the 2G case.

However, the damage has been done, and the Congress has already given credit only to party president Sonia Gandhi for the resignation of the two ministers.

Sources say that the party is upset with the PM's strong defence of Ashwani Kumar till the end. The PM insisted that no rule was broken and that the court had said nothing against the government. In fact, a statement prepared by the PM after the resignation of Ashwani defended him, differentiating his case from Bansal's. This statement, however, was not released, raising further doubts that all is not well.

And even as the PM appears increasingly isolated, the Congress is mulling a complete facelift by way of a reshuffle. Stress will again be on new faces with little baggage, but options for the Congress are few and time is running out.