It appears the Chandigarh Territorial Congress Election Committee does not believe that the railway post bribery scam has tainted former railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal. The panel has recommended the three-time MP's name for candidature again from Chandigarh for the Lok Sabha elections due next year.
The committee did not invite any applications, and some local leaders are unhappy too. The recommendation was made after the Pradesh Congress Committee received a letter from Madhusudan Mistry, in charge of the party's central poll committee. In his letter, Mistry had asked for names for the Lok Sabha elections by October 15. So Bansal's name was reportedly picked in a meeting held on September 29 at the Congress Bhawan in Sector 35, chaired by BB Bahl, president of the Chandigarh Territorial Congress Committee (CTCC). The meeting was attended by Rampal Sharma, DD Jindal, Ravinder Pal Singh, Sohan Lal Vaid, Lalit Joshi and Khalil Ahmed.
Special invitees of the committee - Meenakshi Choudhary, president of Mahila Congress, Chandigarh; Acche Lal, president of the local unit of Congress Sewa Dal; and Devinder Lobana, district (rural) Congress president - were not present but are learnt to have given their consent.
Though Bahl refused to discuss the matter with the media, Rampal Sharma confirmed the nod given to Bansal's name: "We felt Pawan Kumar Bansal is only the right candidate, so we approved his name." Asked why applications weren't invited this time, he said, "It is not mandatory to invite applications; it depends on the election committee."
But there is heartburn. JN Shastri, member of the local unit of Congress, said, "Most of the CTCC leaders were not consulted before approving the name. They should have taken the members into confidence." Another member of CTCC, Bhupinder Singh, said, "We don't know whether Bansal's name has been approved or not, as nobody consulted us."
Bansal was in the eye of a storm after his nephew Vijay Singla was arrested on May 3 by CBI for accepting a bribe of `90 lakh from a senior railway official who wanted a lucrative posting. As a result, Bansal had to resign from the railway ministry, though he has virtually been given the clean chit in the matter so far.