India’s scandal-hit Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and Law Minister Ashwani Kumar stepped down in separate incidents on Friday, plunging the ruling Congress-led coalition into a deeper crisis.
Bansal quit after police arrested his nephew on suspicion of accepting a bribe in a case that was seen as embarrassing to the government, beset by a series of corruption scandals.
Kumar stepped down days after the Supreme Court said the government substantially changed a report by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into alleged irregularities in the awarding of mining rights worth billions of dollars to private companies.
A report into the coal scandal by the CBI was seen by government ministers before it was submitted to court. Auditors have said the government lost $210 billion by selling off coalfields cheaply.
Both the ministers met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh late on Friday and submitted their resignations, ruling Congress party spokesman Bhakta Charan Das told Reuters news agency.
The resignations came soon after the Congress party swept the state elections in the southern state of Karnataka, riding on a strong anti-incumbency wave against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the key opposition at the center.
The opposition’s demands for the resignations had paralyzed the Indian parliament and disrupted a budget session.
Bansal’s resignation came a week after reports that his nephew, Vijay Singla, had accepted a bribe from a Railway Board member to facilitate a lateral promotion. Sources in the Congress said though Bansal had offered to put in his papers last Saturday, the party leadership asked him to stay on until after the Karnataka elections were over, the Hindu newspaper reported.
Bansal has denied any wrongdoing and has called for a police investigation into the bribery allegations.
The BJP has also demanded the prime minister’s resignation, but stopped short of calling for a no-confidence motion in the Indian parliament to bring down the government.
“The resignation of the two ministers shows that our demand for their resignation was justified and the government was unnecessarily adamant,” senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj wrote on Twitter.
“If they had accepted our demand for their resignations earlier, the Parliament Session could go on,” she added.
With the departure of Bansal and Kumar from the Ministry, there are now eight ministerial vacancies, three of them in the Cabinet.
In March, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (DMK), a powerful regional party from the state of Tamil Nadu, withdrew from the central government and its Cabinet Minister — M.K. Alagiri, who held the Chemicals and Fertilizers portfolio — and five Ministers of State (MoS) left. None of the posts has been filled yet.