New Delhi: Union Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma, already drawing flack Monday for his remark about price-rise being “beneficial” for farmers, later in the day aggravated the situation for himself and the ruling Congress by calling for foreign direct investment in multibrand retail.
Though there was no official Congress reaction, party sources said Verma’s remarks had come as an embarrassment and that he would be told to show some restraint in the future.
On Monday, Verma faced flak from the opposition parties over his remark that he was “happy” with price rise as it was beneficial for farmers. Even as the furore continued, he later said foreign equity in multibrand retail was the only way to enhance farmers’ income, safeguard the consumers and eliminate the middlemen in the food supply chain.
This is not the first time Verma has caused controversy with his remarks. In February, while campaigning in the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, Verma had dared the Election Commission to take action against him after he declared that sub-quota for Muslims would be increased.
He was endorsing his colleague Law Minister Salman Khurshid’s remark that a 9 percent sub quota out of the 27.5 percent Other Backward Classes quota would be given to the Muslims if the Congress was voted to power.
Later, the steel minister was let off after he expressed his remorse and regret before the poll panel. The same month, Verma also said that by the 2014 elections, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would be “old” to work. “He (the PM) is already 80 years old. In 2014, when the next Lok Sabha elections are to take place, he will be 82. There is a limit to keep on working,” he said in response to a question about when Rahul Gandhi would become the prime minister.
A powerful leader of the Kurmi community in Uttar Pradesh, Verma was a minister in the Samajwadi Party government in the state before he fell out with party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav in 2007 and contested the 2009 Lok Sabha elections on a Congress ticket.
He was given the steel portfolio in July last year with an eye to the 2012 assembly polls but the move did not help as the Congress could only increase its tally from 22 in 2007 to just 28 in the 403-member House.
On Monday, the Eid day, Verma once again mentioned that only the Congress was concerned about the welfare of the minorities (read Muslims) while the Samajwadi Party government only thought of its vote bank while wooing the community.