Bansal’s stay in Cabinet hangs in balance

New Delhi: Railway Minister P K Bansal's continuance in the Union Cabinet hung in balance on Saturday as Congress and the government received a fresh battering in the wake of the arrest of his nephew on the charge of accepting bribe to fix plum position in the Railway Board.

As demands for Bansal's removal and prosecution mounted, the Congress Core Group headed by Sonia Gandhi inconclusively met at the residence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who called and talked to the minister earlier in the day.

Sources said Bansal did not offer to resign and in the Core Group meeting he explained his position claiming that he had no business links with his nephew nor did he get influenced by him in decision-making.

A meeting of the Core Group could take place tomorrow for a possible decision on the issue before Parliament resumes on Monday. Senior ministers A K Antony, Sushilkumar Shinde, Gandhi's Political Secretary Ahmed Patel were also present along with Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath.

Senior party sources said that even at the Core Group meeting there was no offer by Bansal to resign. A decision on his contiuance or not may be taken at tomorrow's meeting of the Core Group, they said.

On his part, Bansal distanced himself from his nephew Vijay Singla, who was arrested by CBI last night for allegedly accepting Rs 90 lakhs for fixing a better position for Railway Board member Mahesh Kumar.

In a statement, 64-year-old Bansal, who was made Railway Minister in October last year, claimed he has always observed the highest standards of probity in public life and that nobody can influence his decisions. He also sought an expeditious CBI inquiry into the issue.

Interestingly, the AICC also appeared to back him with party generaly secretary Janardan Dwivedi brushing demands for Bansal's resignation saying it has become a "disease" for the Opposition to make such demands.