New Delhi: After saying Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru should not be hanged, Union minister Beni Prasad Verma on Thursday swiftly retracted his statement reportedly given to a news channel.
“I never gave any such statement,” ANI quoted Beni Prasad Verma as saying.
Only hours before, he had said: “Do not hang Afzal Guru but give him life imprisonment.”
The remarks came at a time when the UPA government is treading cautiously on the issue of the execution of death penalty awarded to Afzal Guru.
The remarks also came on a day when the nation is paying homage to the martyrs of terrorist attack on Parliament. On this day in 2001, heavily-armed terrorists had attacked the temple of democracy, killing 11 persons including five policemen.
Verma also faced opposition from within his Congress party we well, with Satyavrat Chaturvedi saying that Afzal Guru should be hanged immediately.
“Beni Prasad Verma cannot save him,” Chaturvedi said.
Samajwadi Party’s Mohan Singh also hit out at Beni Prasad Verma, saying the minister was a master of irresponsible statements.
Interestingly, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh has also said that he favoured execution of death penalty awarded to Afzal Guru.
"I am in favour of the execution of capital punishment to Afzal Guru," he said.
The main Opposition BJP also raised the issue of Afzal Guru’s hanging today by giving notice for adjournment of Question Hour in the Lok Sabha.
Officially, the government has treated cautiously on the issue with Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde saying that he will look into Afzal Guru’s mercy plea after the Winter Session of Parliament.
It is not the first time Verma has courted controversy. In October this year, Verma had triggered one by saying, "I believe Salman Khurshid could not have embezzled Rs 71 lakh. It is a very small amount for a central minister. I would have taken it seriously if the amount was Rs 71 crore."
In August he had said that he is happy with the price rise as the farmers are benefitting.