New Delhi: Union minister Beni Prasad Verma on Tuesday kicked up another controversy with his barbs at friend-turned foe Mulayam Singh Yadav, saying that the SP chief was not even fit to sweep the Prime Minister's residence, drawing instant rebuke from the Congress.
"Yadav wants to become Prime Minister. He should first try to get the job of a sweeper at the residence of the PM," 77-year Verma said at a programme in Uttar Pradesh's Faizabad.
He prefaced his remark by alleging that the SP was a party based on "lies and fraud" and that it will be finished by the Congress.
Verma was once a close confidant of the Samajwadi Party supremo but was gradually sidelined after Amar Singh came into the picture. The Kurmi leader quit the party in 2007 and joined the Congress before 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
Disapproving of Verma's remarks, Congress once again ticked him off for his remarks against Yadav saying it was "regrettable and the party totally distances itself from that".
"I do not know whether he has said anything like this, but if he has done so, it is regrettable. Mulayam Singh Yadav is a big leader and has been in politics for a long time. Verma was an old friend of Yadav. The party totally distances itself from it. It has nothing to do with it," party spokesman Meem Afzal said in Delhi.
When asked by reporters whether the party would initiate disciplinary action against Verma, who has been making controversial statements against Yadav, Afzal said that Verma is a Union minister and wondered what action the party could take.
Asked whether it meant that the Prime Minister should act in the matter, he said he was not suggesting that.
Afzal sidestepped a volley of questions on the issue including whether it was time to tell Verma to stop making controversial statements against Yadav, whose party is a key outside supporter of the UPA at the Centre and whether he thinks that the Union minister was a "habitual offender".
"You know better than us", he said when asked whether the party feels angry, embarrassed or helpless over Verma's statements.
He said Verma has already been told by the AICC general secretary Madhusudan Mistry, who is in charge of party affairs in UP, that he should desist from making such remarks. Asked whether Verma was helping the BSP, arch-detractor of the SP, he merely said that he can't say anything about it.
Verma had last week alleged that that some Congress leaders worked as B-team of Samajwadi Party following which he was told that issues if any should be discussed within the party fora and not outside.
Mistri had spoken to him twice over the matter. A senior leader speaking on condition of anonymity today indicated that while Congress broadly sees the tussle between Verma and Mulayam as an issue between the two individuals, it is definitely not amused with the Union minister's remarks about Congress.
Verma, who had been a former friend and colleague of SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, has been attacking Yadav for the last few months putting Congress in an embarrassing position as UPA is being supported from outside by SP.
A few months back, when Verma alleged that the SP chief had links with terrorists, Congress had snubbed him saying the party does not share the view and those in public life should speak with decorum.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi had also told the SP chief that she does not approve of such comments, which brought an end to the controversy.
Beni also expressed "regret", stopping short of making an apology as demanded by the SP.
However, the war words resumed a few days back with the Union minister hitting out at the SP saying coming Lok Sabha elections will mark the "funeral procession" of the party.
Some Congress leaders are also of the view that Verma could be warming up to BSP, SP's main rival in UP, while others believe that he is unlikely to leave the party.