Former union minister and Samajwadi Party leader Beni Prasad Verma passed away in Lucknow on Friday. He was 79. A founding member of the SP, Verma was considered close to party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav. The Rajya MP had not been keeping well for past few days. He was admitted to a private hospital in Lucknow, where he died around 7 pm. Verma was the telecom minister between 1996-1998 in then prime minister H D Deve Gowda’s cabinet and was the steel minister in the Congress-led UPA government.