Bansal claims innocence in Railgate

Two days after relinquishing his cabinet post, former railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal claimed innocence in the railway bribery scam. He said the ongoing investigation in the case would establish it.

"I have no role in `Railgate', let the CBI conduct its inquiry. I will continue holding public meetings in city," he told supporters at his Chandigarh residence yesterday. He said, former MP Satya Pal Jain's allegations were part of a malicious campaign to tarnish his image.

Following the development in Delhi, there was much support for Bansal in Chandigarh. Congressmen flocked to his residence in droves as Bansal uncharacteristically turned up on time to receive them.

However, things took an ugly turn when a media person asked him about the companies his family owned.

Bansal shot back that he had not come to give him the definition of his family.

He asked the media person come inside and ''I will tell you''.

Following this, the Chandigarh Press Club issued a statement, saying, "He (media person) has virtually been threatenedů The press club demands an unconditional apology from Mr Bansal."

Earlier, in a sign of the growing discomfiture in the ruling camp, over media speculation into whether the prime minister was forced by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to sack ministers Pawan Bansal and Ashwani Kumar, the Congress yesterday chose to correct the perception, stating that it was a "joint decision".

It had appeared in a section of the media that it was at the insistence of the Congress president that the two ministers were dropped. This perception was not correct. The correct position was that it was the joint decision of the Congress president and the prime minister, according to AICC general secretary and media department chairman Janardan Dwivedi.

The clarification came after senior BJP leader L K Advani taking a dig at the PM in his blogpost said:  "Has the Prime Minister abdicated his right even to decide about his own cabinet? Today's news reports... emphasise that it is Soniaji who has sacked the 'two PM's men'. Sheer self-respect demands that the PM call it a day."

Party sources, however, emphasised on Sunday that the party and PM were on the same page in the matter and both were in agreement over the step against Bansal and Kumar.

The Congress's clarification comes in the backdrop of growing public perception that in Sonia, during her meeting with the PM on Friday, had pressured him to drop the two ministers from Punjab, who were perceived to be close to him. Only hours after their meeting, the two ministers were called to Singh's residence to put in their papers.

Even after the CBI submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court confirming that Ashwani Kumar had been given access to the draft report on coal allocations, Singh had come out in his defence, saying there was no question of the law minister resigning.