New Delhi: Union Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma has put his party in a spot again by saying that the next Lok Sabha elections in 2014 could be a direct fight between Congress general secretary and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Narendra Modi.
Verma hit out at Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav over his prime ministerial ambitions, saying the next Prime Minister will be either a Congress leader or Narendra Modi, and not Mulayam.
"The next government at the Centre will be of either Congress or (Narendra) Modi and not SP or Third Front," said the Congress leader.
He further said, "The 2014 Lok Sabha elections will be a direct fight between Modi and Rahul Gandhi."
Reacting to the attack on the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister, the Samajwadi Party has sought his ouster from the Cabinet.
"He (Beni Prasad Verma) has no right to remain as a Cabinet minister. If the government does not remove him, we will rethink on giving our support to the UPA. We will not support this government on the cost of our dignity," said Samajwadi Party leader Mohan Singh.
However, the Congress appeared to downplay the comments of Prasad, with Union Minister Harish Rawat saying there was no comparison between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi.
Earlier on Sunday, Verma made a controversial remark that the ruling coalition supported high inflation as it was good for the farmers.
"We are happy with the inflation, it will help farmers... Dal, grain and vegetables are more expensive. The rising price is a benefit. We are happy."
The Opposition did not waste a minute in using the opportunity to score political points.
BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain said, "There can be no worse statement than this. The price of farming has gone up and inflation is not helping the farmer. The Congress is far removed from the common man."
BSP leader Sudhindra Bhadoria said, "To support this idea that inflation and price hike is good is really unacceptable. I think the minister should have refrained today and otherwise too from commenting like this."
He added, "This will not go down well with the people of the country. Inflation may not affect the rich, but definitely affects the poor."