Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan has admitted to taking the help of Congress MLAs to raise matters related to Indore, which was her constituency, when her party was in power in Madhya Pradesh, The Indian Express reported on Tuesday.

Mahajan, who represented Indore in Parliament for 20 years, said she was always concerned about her constituency’s development. “When it comes to development of Indore we rise above the party line,” Mahajan said at an event on Sunday where she shared the stage with Governor Lalji Tandon and Minister of Higher Education Jitu Patwari. “I am sharing my personal experience. If my government was there, I could not speak against it. I used to feel something should happen, someone should speak. I used to stealthily ask Jitu bhaiyya and Tulsibhai [Health Minister Tulsiram Silawat] to do something.”

Mahajan said she was “tied down with [party] discipline” and hence could not speak out against the BJP-led government publicly, PTI reported. After Congress legislators raised the matters, Mahajan said she used to take it up with then Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The former Speaker said her conduct was justified because she prioritised the development of Indore. Such camaraderie was Indore’s nature and every politician wanted to do something good for the city, Mahajan added.

Tulsiram Silawat praised the former Speaker for her admission. “The former MP’s words should be taken in the right spirit,” the Congress leader said on Monday. “Tai [as Mahajan is popularly known] always thought of Indore region’s progress, and that leaders cutting across party lines should be a part of it.”

Patwari also praised the BJP leader. “Sumitra Mahajan ji was always positive about the development of Indore, which is above party lines,” The Times of India quoted him as saying. “So, she used to seek help even from Congress MLAs to raise important issues concerning the city.”

Congress spokesperson Narendra Saluja and Durgesh Sharma, however, criticised the BJP, claiming that the former Speaker’s remarks showed that there was no democracy in the saffron party. “After industrialist Rahul Bajaj, now the country’s former Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan exposed claims of freedom of speech within BJP,” Saluja tweeted.

The BJP, however, claimed that Mahajan’s statements only showed her love for Indore, and said the party had always kept her word when in power. “Mahajan’s statement is based on emotions as she belongs to Indore,” BJP media in-charge Lokendra Parashar told The Times of India. “She is our senior leader and we respect her and consider all her suggestions.”