Stay away from my rally: Beni to local MP Punia

Beni Prasad VermaUnion Steel Minister, Beni Prasad Verma.

Raising a fresh controversy, Union Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma Sunday advised Congress MP P L Punia to not attend a party demonstration in Barabanki district — Punia's constituency — on Monday against deteriorating law and order in Uttar Pradesh.

Claiming it to be his "personal show", Verma declared that he would be organising similar programmes across the state to ascertain his personal strength but "none of the MPs in the region or probable candidates would be invited".

Beni terms party MP Punia an 'outsider', Cong downplays comment

While his declaration is seen as an attempt to raise his stature above the party, district leaders are confused about whom to support. The district Congress has declared its support for the demonstration, but has kept itself out of the war of words between the two leaders.

"It is my personal initiative and effort. I wish to ascertain the mood of the public towards me so there is no need for local MP or probable candidate for 2014 Lok Sabha elections to attend the programme. I have asked him (Punia) to stay away from the demonstration," Verma said.

Related: Congress workers clash in Barabanki, several injured

Asked if the protest would be under the banner of the Congress, he said, "Of course. It is a demonstration of the Congress under my leadership and it is advisable for the local MP to not attend it. It is just the beginning. I would be organising similar programmes across the state to ascertain the mood of the public and MPs would not be invited anywhere."

A senior party leader said Punia, who was in Barabanki Sunday, had told partymen that he would be part of the demonstration as it is a Congress programme and he is the party MP from the area.

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