Chandigarh: An advocate-turned-politician, Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal has gradually moved his way up in his political career while maintaining a clean image. However, this will be impacted by a bribery scandal in which his nephew Vijay Singla figures prominently.
Bansal, 64 (born July 16, 1948), who is into his fourth term as MP from Chandigarh, is generally a soft-spoken man who has maintained a low-profile even as a top politician.
His appointment as railway minister last year was welcomed by Chandigarh residents and within weeks of his taking over, the city got a new Shatabdi Express train connection to New Delhi, in addition to two existing ones, and the Chandigarh railway station started getting a major facelift.
Bansal used to be a frequent traveller on the Chandigarh-New Delhi Shatabdi Express train and continued to do this even after becoming railways minister (not using the special salon meant for railway ministers).
When he was made railways minister October last year, the Congress leadership reposed a lot of faith in Bansal. After all, the railways ministry, considered lucrative in political circles, had come back to the Congress party after a gap of several years.
In the past two decades, the ministry was always held by leaders from parties who ran coalition governments with the Congress at the centre.
Bansal first railway budget February this year saw a number of things for the north region – an area hitherto general neglected by successive railway ministers.
A law graduate from Panjab University here, also the alma mater of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Bansal studied at the same time as the present Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj.
Originally hailing from south-west Punjab, Bansal’s first big break in politics came in 1984 when he was made a Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab. He became close to the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
In 1991, Bansal contested the Lok Sabha elections from the Chandigarh seat and won it. After losing the seat in 1996, he got elected from the same seat in 1999, 2004 and 2009. He held various posts in the Congress, including its Chief Whip (2004-06).
He was inducted as a minister of state for finance in the union government in January 2006 and held the post till May 2009. In April 2008, he was also made minister of state for parliamentary affairs.
Following the last general elections in May 2009, Bansal was elevated as a cabinet minister. He headed various ministries like water resources, parliamentary affairs, science and technology and earth sciences.
Bansal largely kept away from controversies, except for a few run-ins with former Punjab Governor and Chandigarh administrator S.F. Rodrigues. The current bribery scam is the biggest controversy in his political career.
Married to home-maker Madhu Bansal, Bansal has two sons – Amit and Manish. While the elder one runs a school, Delhi Public School, in Chandigarh in which former union minister Ambika Soni also has a stake, the younger son, Manish, was being groomed for politics.