The ‘Babuji’ of the Kurmis and the ‘Netaji’ of the Yadavs — best of friends till 2006 – timed the heightening of their enmity with the SP taking pot shots at the Congress after the exit of the last of the major UPA allies, the DMK.
What makes Beni Prasad Verma, 72, leader of the backward Kurmi caste, so important to the Congress that it is risking the wrath of Yadav patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav – whose support the UPA needs for its survival – lies in the support of the Kurmis and his knowledge of Yadav politics.
Verma and Yadav both rose to prominence from two key regions of UP -- Barabanki and Etawah.
Both of them drew inspiration from Ram Sevak Yadav, a close associate of socialist ideologue Ram Manohar Lohia, and both became close to former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh eventually.
They parted ways over not-much-publicised differences, but avoided fighting in public – let alone accuse each other of having terror links and drug smuggling. Their enmity was never so shrill.
But when Yadav was busy spreading his influence and re-building the winning equation of the Yadav-Muslim combine, Verma went through a failed venture, the Samajwadi Kranti Dal in 2007. He had to swallow his pride and enter the national scene with Rahul Gandhi’s backing.
Now, Verma, to protect his own relevance in politics has taken up a new role by attacking his “old friend” for having links with terrorists — although in November 2012, Verma announced: “I will continue to be hard on Mulayam Singh Yadav. He is an old friend. I alone can deal with him.”
But the Yadavs hit him where it hurts most -- his home turf Barabanki -- known for smuggling of opium and heroin.
Congress leader Shiv Shankar Shukla, who is also from Barabanki, demanded that party chief Sonia Gandhi and Rahul should initiate a CBI probe into the opium smuggling charges against Verma.
A resident of Barabanki, who did not wish to be named, however, said, “Verma may have come in contact with them in his constituency. Otherwise, he has no links. He has been a farmer leader and was closely associated with the Arya Samaj movement in his early days.”