Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Thursday said that she “would rather die” than benefit the Bharatiya Janata Party, ANI reported.

Her comments come a day after she had said that the Congress has fielded candidates in Uttar Pradesh that would cut into the BJP’s votes. “We have carefully chosen candidates so that either Congress wins or they cut into BJP’s votes,” Gandhi had told reporters. “Congress is not at all cutting into votes of the ‘UP gathbandhan’.”

On Thursday, the Uttar Pradesh (East) Congress general secretary clarified her remarks. “I have not said I am putting weak candidates,” Gandhi said. “I have very clearly said that the Congress is fighting this election on its own strength. I would rather die than benefit the BJP. We have chosen candidates that are either fighting very strongly or cutting BJP votes.”

Her remarks led to a controversy with the BJP claiming that she had acknowledged her party’s decline to a “fringe organisation” and the Samajwadi Party and the BSP criticising her statements, PTI reported.

“This is her confessional statement about the Congress becoming a fringe organisation,” Union minister Arun Jaitley said at a press conference on Thursday. “A mainstream party, the grand old party of Indian politics is now a fringe organisation in India.”

BJP leader GVL Narasimha Rao alleged that the Congress and the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance were collaborating and that Gandhi’s comments revealed that alliance. “They are trying to weaken democracy in the country,” Rao said. “We know that they are two sides of the same coin. Today, after this drama, the public has come to know that these parties are favoring a weak government.”

Meanwhile, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati claimed that the Congress and the BJP have a tacit agreement against her alliance with the Samajwadi Party in the state. Mayawati said that Congress leaders do not mind if the BJP’s candidates win but that they do not want candidates from the alliance to win.

“Like the BJP, the Congress has started saying absurd things about the SP-BSP alliance,” Mayawati said at a rally in Barabanki. “It is clear that both [Congress and BJP] have a tacit understanding and are contesting against our alliance unitedly.”

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said that he did not believe that the Congress has fielded weak candidates anywhere, ANI reported. “No party does it,” Yadav said. “The people are not with them.”

The Samajwadi Party and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party had finalised an alliance in January, but left the Congress out of it, saying that including the party would help the BJP in the polls. The Samajwadi Party will contest 37 out of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh, and Bahujan Samaj Party will stand from 38 constituencies. The alliance is not contesting from two seats, Rae Bareli and Amethi, which are held by Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi.