Lucknow: Former union steel minister and senior Congress leader Beni Prasad Verma on Friday quit the Congress and returned to the Samajwadi Party (SP), of which he was one of the founding members.
While Verma had been denying his return to the Samajwadi Party, he met SP chief and “old friend” Mulayam Singh Yadav on Friday and announced he was quitting the Congress and returning to his old party.
“He has been forgiven by ‘neta ji’ (Mulayam) and now things are normal,” a close aide of Mulayam Singh Yadav told IANS.
Present during Verma’s homecoming were Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mohammad Azam Khan and Public Works Department Minister Shivpal Singh Yadav.
Verma, who is said to have influence in Barabanki and nearby areas, left the Samajwadi Party in 2007. He then went ballistic against both the party and its leadership.
Verma joined the Congress just before the 2009 general elections and was rewarded with the post of union minister in the United Progressive Alliance government.
Sources said that since the SP is in a position to send as many as 11 members to the Rajya Sabha in the July elections, Verma opened talks with the leadership of the party ruling Uttar Pradesh.
Though there is no official word on his candidature for the Rajya Sabha yet, SP insiders say it is a certainty.
Reacting to the development, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said: “It has now been proved beyond doubt that the SP, in face of an imminent electoral defeat, is looking at a cocktail of caste and communal politics.”
State BJP spokesman Vijay Bahadur Pathak said by taking back people who represented the “politics of caste and hatred”, the ruling dispensation has shown its “true colours as well as frustration”.
The Congress also reacted sharply, and called Beni Prasad Verma a “political turncoat who cannot survive without power and someone who was without principles”.
UP Congress communication cell chairman Satyadev Tripathi said the world has seen how caustic and abusive Verma was towards the SP chief while out of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s party but had now stooped to a new low to get a Rajya Sabha seat.