With SP staying firm on its stand for removal of Beni Prasad Verma from the government, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday reached out to Mulayam Singh Yadav in Lok Sabha and asked him with folded hands to give up his demand for his resignation.
Samajwadi Party got support
from unexpected quarters when Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj backed Yadav and said in the Lower House that Verma's charge against the SP chief of taking commissions was a breach of privilege.
She said the matter should be referred to the Privileges Committee.
Gandhi, who was present in the House and was watching the new bonhomie between SP, an outside supporter of the government, and BJP, walked upto Yadav's seat soon after Lok Sabha was adjourned around noon.
Though she was not audible to reporters in the press gallery, Gandhi was seen talking to Yadav with folded hands.
During the conversation, Yadav complained about Verma to Gandhi, who requested him to give up his demand for the minister's resignation, according to SP sources.
BJP members, as well as senior ministers of the UPA government, were taken aback at this.
Soon after Gandhi left, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh (SP) came over to Swaraj and LK Advani to inform them about the development and said they were still firm on their stand, the sources said.
Yadav too walked upto the BJP benches and reiterated his stand.
Verma, who was not present in the House on Wednesday, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He then publicly expressed regret over his remarks.
These developments have come at a time when government said the crisis has blown over and "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 before Lok Sabha met.
SP's demand has come at a time when the government needs its support in the wake of DMK walking out of UPA.
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.
Verma had also skipped the crucial meeting of Congress Parliamentary addressed by party president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday.
The controversy involving a supporting party had come at a time when the government was facing the political challenge in the wake of UPA constituent DMK pulling out of the alliance on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue.
Verma has also said he would continue to remain in the party and was not resigning from the Cabinet.
"I will remain in Congress all my life. Let people say what they want to say," Verma said on Tuesday.
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