Slow rise, fast fall for Pawan Kumar Bansal
New Delhi: Unlike the taint associated with run-of-the-mill politicians, Pawan Kumar Bansal had a certain image of "Mr Clean" and was known for being meticulous in work. But when his nephew was arrested last week on bribery charges, the Railway Minister's reputation went for a toss and his exit from the Cabinet was only a matter of time.
Bansal, who was made to resign, hailed from nondescript town of Tapa in Punjab and his rise in political was gradual unlike the fall. From being a mere Youth Congress member in 1976 to the coveted Union Railway Minister's post, Bansal rose by his sheer dint of hard work and determination with his legal background aiding him.
The suave and mild-mannered 64-year-old Bansal shocked many when his name cropped up in the "cash-for-posting" scam involving his nephew Vijay Singla for making top railway postings in lieu of cash.
Starting at a young age of 28 as general secretary of Chandigarh Youth Congress, Bansal's 36-year-long political career reached a pinnacle when he was the surprise choice for the coveted Railway Minister's post to which he was shifted from Parliamentary Affairs and Water Resources ministry.
He became a Rajya Sabha member at a young age of 36 and entered the Lok Sabha at 43 when he won the Chandigarh Lok Sabha seat. He has since won the seat four times, losing in 1996 and 1998 polls.
Made the Minister of State for Finance in UPA-I, Bansal, known for his persuasive skills, was handed over Parliamentary Affairs Ministry portfolio also. He was elevated as a Cabinet Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Water Resources in UPA-II.
But his shift to Railway Ministry was a surprise, considering that Chandigarh hardly wielded any political clout in national politics and that the post came to Congress-fold after a gap of almost 18 years.
Despite hailing from Punjab, Bansal made Chandigarh his political ground, to which he migrated at a young age.
The self-made, first-generation politician of humble beginning rose by his sheer efforts to become the undisputed Congress leader of Chandigarh.
After studying at Yadavindra Public School, Patiala, he did his graduation in Science at Government College Chandigarh and later completed his law degree from Panjab University.
Bansal had faced a major challenge in 1999 when he barely managed to get the Congress ticket from Chandigarh Lok Sabha seat and won by a slender margin of about 5,500 votes against BJP heavyweight Krishan Lal Sharma.
The 1999 election was also crucial for him as he managed to survive internal party feuds after outmanoeuvring former Union Minister Venod Sharma who became controversial following the involvement of his son Manu Sharma in ramp model Jessica Lal murder case in April that year.
His rise in the Congress party came about after this victory and his close links with senior Congress leaders like Ambika Soni and Manmohan Singh helped him earn a bigger role in the party.
The families of Bansal and Soni jointly run a reputed public school in Chandigarh.
Bansal's detractors point out that he could not maintain a balance between his political career and business ambitions of his family. His detractors also say that while he nourished his constituency, his family made the best of him in expanding their business through his clout. With his family and business now in spotlight, Bansal's detractors in Congress are now eyeing his Chandigarh Lok Sabha constituency.