Opposition leaders on Monday accused Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sambit Patra of hurting Odia sentiments by saying that the Hindu deity Jagannath is a devotee of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Earlier in the day, Patra, who is the BJP candidate from the Puri Lok Sabha constituency in Odisha, told a local news channel that “Lord Jagannath is Modi’s bhakt, and we all are members of Modi’s family”, The Indian Express reported.

“I can’t control my emotions after witnessing such incredible moments,” he told television channel Kanak News during a roadshow with Modi. “I feel it’s a special day for all Odias.” Patra, however, later described his remarks as a “slip of the tongue”.

Odisha Chief Minister and Biju Janata Dal leader Naveen Patnaik, however, said that Patra’s remark demeaned the faith of Jagannath devotees.

“The Lord [Jagannath] is the greatest symbol of Odia Asmita [pride],” Patnaik said on social media. “Calling Mahaprabhu [Jagannath] a bhakt of another human being is totally condemnable.”

The chief minister added: “I strongly denounce the statement made by the BJP Puri Lok Sabha candidate and I appeal to the BJP to keep the Lord above any political discourse. By this you have deeply hurt Odia Asmita and this will be remembered and condemned by people of Odisha for a very long time.”

The Congress too said that Patra’s remarks were derogatory and constituted a “direct attack on Odia Asmita”.

The party said: “We want Sambit to apologise with folded hands in front of national media and each and every citizen of Odisha.”

Later in the day, Patra responded to Patnaik on social media and said that his remarks were a mistake.

“I gave number of bytes today to multiple media channels after the massive success of Shri Narendra Modiji’s road show in Puri today, everywhere I mentioned that Modi ji is an ardent ‘Bhakt’ [devotee] of Shri Jagannath Mahaprabhu,” the BJP leader said. “By mistake during one of the bytes I pronounced just the opposite.”

He also asked the chief minister to refrain from making an issue “out of a nonexistent issue”, adding that “we all have ‘slip of tongue sometimes’”.

Patra also told ANI that he would observe a fast as a penance in the name of Jagannath. “I agree that the sentiments of some people have been hurt due to my statement, but even the lord forgives a person for committing a mistake unknowingly.”

So far voting for nine parliamentary seats has concluded in Odisha in the fourth and fifth phases of Lok Sabha polls. Voting for six seats will take place on May 25 and another six will conclude on June 1 in the state. Assembly polls in the state are also taking place simultaneously.