Minutes after Pawan Kumar Bansal stepped down as railway minister on Friday, leaders of Chandigarh Territorial Congress Committee put their weight behind the under-fire Chandigarh MP, describing him as an "honest politician".
This was the first time local Congress leaders spoke in support of Bansal, who has come under sharp criticism since the arrest of his nephew, Vijay Singla, for allegedly accepting a R90-lakh bribe Friday last week.
The Bansal family residence in Sector 28 and the Congress office in Sector 35 wore a deserted look in the evening. A source said that as soon as the news of Bansal's resignation broke, local leaders phoned Bansal.
City mayor Subhash Chawla, considered a confidant of Bansal, was unavailable. His personal security officer, who attended the call, said Chawla was busy in a meeting. Chandigarh Territorial Congress Committee BB Bahl was steadfast in his defence of the Chandigarh member of Parliament. Describing him as a man of ethics, BB Bahl said Bansal had worked relentlessly for the city. "He has set high standards of dignity, honesty in politics and general life, and become an institution in himself in India, not just Chandigarh."
Former mayor Pardeep Chhabra said Bansal had always tried to increase the money allocated for projects in Chandigarh. "As the railways minister, he improved rail connectivity in north India. He has always worked and stood for the development of his city," Chhabra said.
"The city's development in the past decade and a half is the proof of his commitment towards his voters, who have always supported him. His contribution to the city need not be over emphasised, it is evident and before all," he said. The two leaders also described the allegations against Bansal and his nephew as a "malicious campaign by the Opposition".
On other hand, nominated councillor Surinder Bahga said Bansal had no option but to step down. "He has already played his innings."
Ajay Jagga, advocate and president of the city unit of Janata Party, appreciated the railway minister for resigning from the cabinet. "It (the resignation) shows that media is more influential nowadays."