Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is believed to have tried to prevent the removal of Ashwani Kumar from the Union cabinet till the very end.
While the Congress leadership was mulling options for the damage-control exercise after Supreme Court observed that the “heart” of the coalgate status report has been changed, Singh offered to shift Kumar to some low-profile ministry.
Top Congress sources added that Singh’s defence for Kumar came from the fact that the allegations against him were completely different from the charges faced by railway minister Pawan Bansal.
Singh had put up a strong defence for Kumar in an earlier core group meeting, soon after reports about Kumar’s role in tweaking the affidavit appeared in media. That time, Congress president Sonia Gandhi too, preferred to let the PM take the call.
But the party’s stand has changed drastically since Thursday. It increasingly felt that action against Kumar along with Bansal would allow the Congress to take the high moral ground.
On Friday afternoon, Singh and Gandhi went into a huddle to take a decision on Kumar and Bansal. It was at this meeting that the PM and Gandhi ”together” came to the conclusion that the only way to cap the ongoing controversy was to drop Kumar along with Bansal.
“Gandhi never takes any unilateral decision. This time too, the two leaders decided collectively,” said a source.
Sources added that both leaders also discussed some names before picking Kapil Sibal as the successor of Kumar in law ministry.