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India rail minister quits amid bribery claims

Unconfirmed resignation of PK Bansal may further damage reputation of scandal-hit government ahead of state elections.

Last Modified: 10 May 2013 16:30
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India Railways is one of the world's largest, with 115,000 km of track, and 1.4 million workers [GALLO/GETTY]

India's railway minister, Pawan Kumar Bansal, has resigned, according to two Indian television channels - though a government spokesperson said the resignation could not be confirmed.

If the reports are correct, Bansal's resignation on Friday would deal a fresh blow to the scandal-hit government as regional elections loom.

The news comes just days after police arrested Bansal's nephew for allegedly accepting a R9 million ($165,000) bribe for the promotion of an official to a plum job on the national railway board.

PK Bansal came under fire after alleged dubious dealings
by his nephew [Sanyambahga/Creative Commons]

Officials in Bansal's ruling Congress party had earlier said the case made the minister's position untenable and that his resignation was inevitable.

"It would be embarrassing for the party if he were to be quizzed," a party leader told The Times of India.

Bansal reportedly did not attend Thursday's cabinet meeting, fuelling media speculation that he was on his way out.

Law minister Ashwani Kumar is also facing allegations that he altered a report drafted by India's Central Bureau of Investigation into the "coalgate" scam - a corruption scandal concerning the government's allocation of coal deposits between public sector entities and private corporations.

Opposition demands for the resignation of Bansal and Kumar had paralysed parliament and forced officials to cut a budget session short by two days - dashing hopes of passing more economic reforms and a vote-winning plan to give cheap food to 70 percent of the population.

The Indian rupee posted its biggest single-day fall in four months on Friday, believed to have been caused by the US dollar's strength against global currencies and demand from oil and gold importers offsetting gains in domestic shares.

The drop led the currency to post its biggest weekly fall in the past six months.

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Source:
Al Jazeera And Agencies
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