The central election committee of the Congress apparently does not believe that the railway post bribery scam has tainted former railway minister and incumbent Chandigarh MP Pawan Kumar Bansal.
The committee is all set to nominate the four-time MP's name for candidature again from the lone Lok Sabha seat in the UT for the Lok Sabha elections due soon. The MP also is believed to have got the indication, which reflects in the stepping-up of the campaign over the past few days. Making his presence felt in the city, he has gone into overdrive and has been holding public meetings, visiting houses and addressing party workers.
Sources have told HT that members of the party's screening committee, in a meeting last week in Delhi, finalised Bansal's name out of the five applicants and sent it to the central election committee, who has given its nod. On the condition of anonymity, a member of the screening committee revealed, "Most of the leaders who applied for the ticket were very weak, and we found Bansal as the most suitable candidate."
The six local Congress leaders who had come out in the open opposing Bansal's candidature and applied for the ticket were former president of the Youth Congress' Chandigarh unit, HS Lucky; former general secretary Chander Mukhi Sharma; Chandigarh Congress Committee member Bhupender Singh Badheri; senior party leader Chaman Lal Sharma; and Punjab State Education Board's former employee Kewal Ram. Lucky later withdrew his name after a patch-up with Bansal. Ever since the Parliament session concluded on February 21, Bansal has been regularly holding meeting and addressing rallies — 18 public functions in the past week alone. He also released MP Local Area Development (MPLAD) fund of Rs 55 lakh for installation of two lifts at the district courts in Sector 43.
Pardeep Chhabra, spokesperson of the Chandigarh Territorial Congress Committee (CTCC), said, "We have chalked out a plan to cover the entire city, and will hold meeting public meetings and door-to-door campaign in support of Pawan Bansal." Chander Mukhi Sharma said, "Whoever is picked by the high command, we will support him wholeheartedly." Bansal was in the eye of a storm after his nephew, Vijay Singla, was arrested on May 3 last year by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for allegedly 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.