New Delhi: As the war of words between Union minister Beni Prasad Verma and SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav reached a crescendo, Congress sought to maintain an arm's length from the imbroglio, describing it as "personal issues" between two individuals.
    
However, party spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury hailed the Union minister as a "senior man and seasoned politician". Congress' apparent soft-pedaling of the issue came a day after SP Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav's brother Shivpal Yadav accused Beni of "smuggling opium" and using "charas".
    
Chowdhary termed the war of words between the SP Chief and Beni as "two individuals trading charges against each other." While referring to Shivpal's jibe, the Congress leader said, "as far as new allegations (of Shivpal) are concerned, those who have said so and are levelling such allegations should also substantiate them. Merely making statements won't do."
    
When the controversy had first erupted with Beni alleging 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 renewed with the Union minister, a few days back, again hitting out at the SP saying that the coming Lok Sabha elections will mark the "funeral procession" of the SP. Shivpal's comment last night saw the controversy hitting a new low.
    
Chowdhary on Monday said, "We are not commenting on Beni ji as he is a senior man and seasoned politician who knows what he is doing. He can account and answer for what he has to say."
    
She also evaded a reply when asked whether SP leaders praising LK Advani and the NDA indicating an increasing bonhomie between the two. A section in the party, though, did not discount the possibility of Beni cozying up to BSP. "Ask them" was her brief reply.

(Agencies)

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