Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma and BJP members engaged in sparring on Thursday in Rajya Sabha after he was accused of trying to bribe journalists and people from his Lok Sabha constituency by giving gifts.

Mr. Verma, however, justified it saying Rs. 1.75 crore was spent on the National Steel Consumers Council (NSCC) meeting in Lucknow on February 3, which was organised to augment country’s steel output.

Raising the issue, BJP leader Prakash Javadekar said the event marked the “worst use of power” and amounted to “bribery” and wanted to know whether government will institute an inquiry.

“This is misuse of power...This is nothing but bribery. Will the government institute an inquiry? Whether government will enquire into the episode,” Mr. Javadekar posed during Zero Hour.

He alleged that mobile phones, gifts and cash were distributed among 1,000 persons by the Union Minister in his constituency in the event which had nothing to do with increasing steel production.

The questions Mr. Javadekar asked were whether people from steel, house building and related industries can only be appointed as members of NSCC and if it was so, how the ministry could appoint over 1,000 members in this body without having the right background.

He also asked specifically as to whether these people were extended cash and gifts worth crores in the meeting.

In his reply, Mr. Verma said Rs. 1.75 crore was spent on the event in which Dalits, backwards and minorities participated and charged BJP of “having problems” whenever something was done for these sections of society.

He stressed that it was Steel Consultative Committee meeting and the persons attending were given to and fro fares and TA, DA and it would be his effort that the next Consumer Council’s meet is attended by 2,000 people.

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