The latest man drawn into the ambit of the railway bribery scam, Rahul Bhandari — personal secretary of union railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal — had known Vijay Singla, the minister’s nephew, for years. And contrary to the belief that Bansal brought them together, it was Singla who had brought Bhandari in contact with the minister.
On Thursday, as the officer was questioned for the second straight day by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) regarding the scam, sources in the Congress said the friendship between the two men dated back to 2000.
At the time, Bhandari, a 1997 batch Punjab cadre IAS officer, was the sub-divisional magistrate of Barnala. Singla was a regular visitor to the area, where most of Bansal’s extended family lived.
The friendship lasted through Bhandari’s various transfers across Punjab. Thanks to his political connections, Singla helped the officer get plum postings. A notable one was in 2005, the post -- deputy commissioner of Bathinda, which Bhandari held for two years.
In 2009, he personally introduced Bhandari to Bansal, who held the parliamentary affairs and water resources portfolio, and recommended his name for the post of his personal secretary. In Delhi, the two men regularly met at the Rail Bhawan.