Dismisses reports that P.K. Bansal and Ashwani Kumar were dropped on the insistence of the party chief

Dropping of P.K. Bansal and Ashwani Kumar from the Union Cabinet was the “joint decision” of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, the Congress said on Sunday dismissing reports that the action was at the insistence of the party president.

“It has appeared in a section of the media that it was at the insistence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi that the two Ministers were dropped. This perception is not correct.

“The correct position is that it was the joint decision of the Congress president and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,” party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said in New Delhi.

The statement of Mr. Dwivedi, the AICC Media Department chief, is significant as reports had suggested that Mr. Bansal and Mr. Kumar, seen to be close to the Prime Minister, were made to resign by him late on Friday after the Congress president expressed her displeasure over their continuance in office.

Citing the reports, BJP leader L.K. Advani took a dig at the Prime Minister, saying he should now call it a day as he appeared to have “abdicated” his right to decide on his Cabinet.

“Has the Prime Minister abdicated his right even to decide about his own Cabinet? Today’s news reports about the removal of two Union Ministers generally emphasise that, it is Soniaji who has sacked ‘two PM’s men’

“Sheer self-respect demands that the PM calls it a day, and orders an early general election,” Mr. Advani wrote on his blog post.

The reports had it that in a meeting with Dr. Singh, Ms. Gandhi was understood to have conveyed the party’s unease over the public perception against the government for not acting against Mr. Bansal and Mr. Kumar, who held the Railway and Law Ministry portfolios respectively.

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