Beni Prasad expresses regret, BJP joins SP to demand his removal

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Union Minister Beni Prasad Verma and Samajwadi Party chief  Mulayam Singh Yadav in the Lok Sabha in New Delhi on 18 March. Photo: PTI

New Delhi, Mar 20 (PTI): Union Minister Beni Prasad Verma has now expressed regret over his remarks against Mulayam Singh Yadav. “I am sorry if my remarks have hurt any body’s sentiments,” Verma told reporters after a brief meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Meanwhile, with the exit of DMK from UPA, BJP today sought to drive a wedge between Congress and Samajwadi Party demanding immediate removal of Verma.

Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj batted for Mulayam, saying Verma has tarnished the image of the SP chief who is “a respected leader of the House. He should either prove his charges or apologise.”

The controversy involving a supporting party has come at a time when the government is facing a political challenge in the wake of UPA constituent DMK pulling out of the alliance on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue.

“He (Verma) has repeated his allegations and added some more baseless charges today. This is a matter of privilege of the House and it should be sent to the Privileges Committee. The government should dismiss Verma immediately,” Swaraj said amid thumping of desks by members of the SP, BJP and other parties. She said that after making such “disparaging remarks”, Verma has “no right to continue in office”.

Swaraj said BJP and SP may have political differences, but “this is a matter of privilege of the House.”

In the morning, Beni had seemed to have survived the controversy with the government saying that “the matter is closed”. “I had expressed regret over the matter the day before yesterday in the House. They (SP) have not raised the issue after that. I met them yesterday and they are satisfied and the matter is closed,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath told reporters here.

Party General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi had on Monday remained non-committal when asked whether Congress will take action against Verma but had made the party’s displeasure clear by saying it has “taken this issue very seriously”.

A section in Congress believes that Verma could be warming up to other parties like BSP ahead of the next Lok Sabha elections.

Talking to reporters outside Parliament House two days back, Verma had said he stood by his statement that Yadav allegedly had “terrorist links”. He had also ruled out stepping down following the SP leader’s demand, saying, “Has he made me a Minister?”

Verma had stuck to his guns even as Congress had snubbed him in an apparent bid to mollify SP, which is supporting the government from outside.

“The party is not in agreement with what he (Verma) has said. We do not approve of the statement he has given. Congress has always said that the partymen should talk seriously. SP is supporting our government from outside,” party spokesperson Rashid Alvi had said on Monday.

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