CP Joshi gets railways; Kapil Sibal given law ministry

Prime minister Manmohan Singh today handed over charge of the railway ministry to minister of road transport and highways C P Joshi after graft-hit Pawan Kumar Bansal was forced out from the cabinet.

CP JOSHI & KAPIL SIBALTelecom minister Kapil Sibal has been allotted additional charge of the law ministry, following the resignation of Ashwani Kumar.

The move comes amidst a hue and cry by opposition Bhartiya Janata Party for resignation of the prime minister as well, who, according to them, has been presiding over a corrupt and inefficient government.

The Congress, on the other hand, emboldened by a change of fortune in Karnataka, is reported to be planning a reshuffle of the cabinet by appointing whole time ministers for each ministerial portfolio.

Prime minister Manmohan Singh has written to President Pranab Mukherjee recommending that the resignations of the two may be accepted in light of the allegations of bribery and interference in the CBI probe in the Coalgate scam.

The prime minister and the cabinet as a whole, however, are silent on the role of the PMO and coal ministry in doctoring the 'Coalgate' report.

A reshuffle is almost certain as Sibal and some others already hold more than one portfolio and there are some vacancies to be filled following the DMK's exit from the government.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and general secretary Rahul Gandhi are expected to have a greater say in the cabinet reshuffle as Prime Minister Manmohan Singhmay find increasing resistance from opposition parties baying for blood.

Ashwani Kumar, who stepped down as union law minister on Friday, told a press conference today that he resigned to end the "unnecessary" controversy and that his resignation does not imply any "wrongdoing".

"I have yesterday tendered my resignation to the honourable prime minister while thanking him for giving me the opportunity to be a part of his team.

"I have done so to put an end to an unnecessary controversy in a matter which is before the honourable Supreme Court and in which no adverse comments have been made against me in any manner whatsoever.

"My conscience remains clear and I believe that I will stand vindicated because divine justice ordains that truth and justice will prevail," Kumar said in a statement.

The fact remains that the Supreme Court and the CBI had squarely blamed the law ministry, the PMO, the coal ministry as well as the attorney general for interfering in the `Coalgate' report prepared by the investigating agency.

The CBI, in an affidavit filed before the SC, had stated that it had shared the report into Coalgate with the law minister, attorney general GE Vahanvati, and joint secretaries of the PMO and the coal ministry.

CBI director Ranjit Sinha also admitted that the law minister and the A-G had suggested changes in the status report prepared at the behest of the apex court (See: CBI director apologises to SC for letting law ministry alter draft report).

Pawan Kumar Bansal, on the other hand, is reported to have made the Railways a milch cow. CBI said it has evidence of regular meetings of middlemen and dealmakers with the railway minister and his nephew, which was enough to prove underhand dealings at the Railway Board.