Chandigarh MP Pawan Kumar Bansal, whose tenure in the railway ministry had provided impetus to the Opposition's chorus on corruption, has regained a key position in the Congress ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
Ten months after he resigned from the union cabinet in May following the cash-for-posting scandal, Bansal is now heading the party's candidates screening committee in the key states of Gujarat and Rajasthan and the union territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.
"I am grateful to the Congress president and the vice-president for giving me this responsibility. I will discharge my duty diligently," Bansal told HT.
The Congress has a tough job in both states. In Gujarat, sentiments are running high in favour of Narendra Modi, while in Rajasthan the party suffered a humiliating defeat in the December 2013 assembly polls. Bansal's comeback is significant as former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan is yet to be rehabilitated in the party after he lost his job in the Adarsh housing scam.
Suresh Kalmadi, battling corruption charges in the Commonwealth Games scam, faces political alienation in the Congress where Rahul Gandhi has cracked the whip on graft.
Last year, Bansal's nephew Vijay Singla was caught red-handed accepting bribe for allegedly fixing a key posting in the railway board. CBI quizzed Bansal for over six hours but finally made him a prosecution witness.
With no prima facie evidence against him, the Congress did not want to sideline a senior leader. "He had earlier handled the Punjab state unit of the Congress, has organisational skills and a good equation with both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi," said a party insider.
Bansal, however, is unlikely to be brought back in the cabinet as the graft case is still sub judice.
Sources added that Kalmadi will almost certainly be denied the party ticket from Pune but Bansal is set to contest from Chandigarh as a Congress candidate. But his current job is about compiling internal ground reports and screening the list of aspirants to prepare a preliminary list of candidates for each constituency for the Sonia-headed central election committee of the Congress to pick the final list of candidates.