Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav on Tuesday said that he wished Narendra Modi returns to power after the General Elections this year. The Opposition party leader’s comment was received by loud cheers by members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and has left his own party scrambling for excuses.

Mulayam Singh Yadav made the statement during the last session of the 16th Lok Sabha. “I want to congratulate the prime minister that he tried to move ahead taking everyone along,” he said. “I hope all members to win and return, and you [Modi] become prime minister again.”

Congress leader and United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi was sitting next to Mulayam Singh Yadav in the Lok Sabha.

BJP members chanted “Jai Shri Ram” after the Samajwadi Party leader praised Modi. The prime minister acknowledged the veteran leader’s wishes with folded hands and mentioned Mulayam Singh Yadav’s “blessings” in his speech. “There is much to do. And Mulayam Singhji has given his blessings. I am very grateful to him,” Modi said.

Mulayam Singh Yadav’s comments come at a time when his son Akhilesh Yadav, the Samajwadi Party chief and former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, has supported Opposition leaders in forming an alliance to defeat Modi and the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections.

Meanwhile, Congress President Rahul Gandhi said that while he disagrees with the Samajwadi Party leader, he respects his opinion. “Mulayam Singh Yadav has a role in politics and I respect his opinion,” Gandhi told reporters at a press conference.

Most Samajwadi Party leaders chose not to comment on the matter, PTI reported. Samajwadi Party spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said, “I have not seen what statement he has made. I have no clue.”

Samajwadi Party leader Raviraj Mehrotra said the Modi will lose from the constituencies he contests in, ANI reported. “I do not have knowledge about the context in which Neta Ji [Mulayam Singh Yadav] said it,” Mehrotra said. “But we want a change of government at Centre.”

Rajya Sabha Congress MP Pramod Tiwari said that the veteran Samajwadi Party leader’s comments will benefit the Gandhi-led party, PTI reported. “I do not know in which circumstances he [Mulayam] gave the statement,” Tiwari said. “But, if any party stands to gain politically from the statement, it is certainly going to be the Congress. His votes are not going to Modi and it is likely that the votes will drift away from SP-BSP alliance.”

Also read: Stumped by Mulayam Singh Yadav praising Narendra Modi, Samajwadi Party leaders scamper for excuses