New Delhi: Beni Prasad Verma, elevated to Cabinet rank, is a veteran with vast administrative experience who has never looked back after he severed ties with his old-time friend and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and moved to Congress in 2009.

The 70-year-old OBC leader from the Kurmi caste has been rewarded with a Cabinet berth as he was unhappy when he was not given this rank in the previous reshuffle in January and had to remain content with the portfolio of Minister of State for Steel (Independent Charge). He has now got the same ministry.

Beni's promotion to Cabinet rank appears to be keeping in mind next year's Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh where the Congress will be banking on him to win OBC support—mainly Kurmis whose population in the state is sizeable.

BJP has already brought in Uma Bharti, a Lodh OBC leader, while Mulayam Singh Yadav hopes to keep intact the votes of his community.

Verma was known as Yadav's alter ego in the early 1990s till the rise of Amar Singh in the Samajwadi Party put him in the shadows. Verma was a powerful general secretary and had opposed the growing influence of Amar Singh in the party.

Eventually the two fell out and Verma left SP. After having a mixed bag of electoral successes and failures, Verma finally contested and won the 2009 Lok Sabha polls on a Congress ticket.

The MP from Gonda in Uttar Pradesh has vast administrative experience, having served as Communications Minister from 1996-98 in the United Front government. He was Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and later Minister of State (Independent Charge) in the Communications Ministry in the same government.

This is Verma's fifth term in the Lok Sabha. He has been a member of the Lower House since 1996. He was re-elected in 1998, 1999 and 2004.

A law graduate from Lucknow University, Verma became an MLA for the first time in 1974 on a Bhartiya Kranti Dal ticket in Uttar Pradesh. From 1977-80, he was minister of jails, Cane development and sugar industry.

From 1989-91, he was minister of Public Works Department, Excise and Parliamentary Affairs in the Yadav government.

Verma has joined and left several parties in his long politcal career. After leaving BKD, he had joined Janata Party, then shifted to Bhartiya Lok Dal and later to the Janata Dal.

(Agencies)