Following strong opposition pressure, two powerful Indian ministers have resigned for their role in vetting a confidential coal scam report and a bribery case.
"Both the ministers were forced to resign or you can say sacked Friday evening after ruling Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi met the prime minister to urge action against the duo," a Congress source told KUNA.
The prime minister Manmohan Singh was pushed late Friday to act against Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, accused of vetting a confidential report on USD 37 billion coal scam and Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal following accusations his nephew took USD 160,000 in a bribe from an official in return for a top post in the state-run rail network.
On Saturday, in a media briefing at his home, Kumar said, "I have not done anything wrong. I've resigned from the Cabinet because Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wanted me to." The opposition BhartyaJanta Party (BJP) has been disrupting parliament for several days over the hesitant Congress' inability to act against the duo.
The disruption has seen government finding it difficult to pass legislation on two key bills: Food Security Bill and the Land Acquisition Bill. Both the bills form bedrock of ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) led by Congress government's development promises which has seen itself cornered by opposition in the wake of several scams rocking the country.
The BJP had promised "to help pass the food security bill" provided "both the ministers resigned." With the latest development, BJP, which is hailing the removal of two government officials as its victory, is now baying for the prime minister's position. "Now the prime ministr should also resign. The consequences should follow," veteran BJP leader L K Advani said.
"The Law Minister was protecting the PM (Singh held the coal portfolio when the coal blocks were allotted to several companies between 2004-08). The consequences should follow, which means, the prime minister should resign too, " he added.
In a hurriedly called press conference today BJP President Rajnath Singh accused Kumar of "shielding" the prime minister and upped the demand over Singh's resignation.
"I believe this is the first govt of independent India which has faced so many allegations of corruption," he said, adding "the entire country has been put in a terrible situation because of massive corruption."