Railway Minister Bansal quits, Law Minister Ashwani Kumar may follow

New Delhi, May 10 (IANS) Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal Friday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and submitted his resignation while Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, facing heat for interfering in a CBI probe in coal blocks allocation, also met the prime minister indicating he may too quit.

Bansal’s resignation came hours after Congress chief Sonia Gandhi met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his official residence in the evening as the Congress decided the railway minister, whose relative was arrested for corruption, must go.

He handed over his resignation to the prime minister at his official residence, said informed sources.

Bansal was under a cloud after his nephew was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for accepting a bribe of Rs.90 lakh for getting a plum Railway Board post to a senior official.

Labour Minister Mallikarjuna Kharge is tipped to be the next railway minister. The name of Surface Transport Minister C.P. Joshi, who held the railway portfolio briefly before Bansal, was also being considered, said the sources.

The indication that Bansal’s fate was sealed came Friday afternoon when Congress spokesperson Bhakta Charan Das told reporters: “We will not tolerate if anybody is found mired in corruption.”

According to informed sources, the Congress wanted to remove both Bansal and Ashwani Kumar in a minor cabinet reshuffle being planned over the next few days.

But Bansal was asked to resign Friday itself after reports that he had sought divine help (feeding a goat) to save himself, irked the Congress leadership, said the sources.

Bansal remained in office for around six months.

Ashwani Kumar may be moved to a less significant ministry, said the sources.

The Congress, which successfully snatched Karnataka from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the anti-corruption plank, did not want to send out a wrong signal by showing it was soft on corruption, the sources added.

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