Union Minister Beni Prasad Verma on Wednesday expressed “regret” for his remarks against Mulayam Singh Yadav but the Samajwadi Party chief was in no mood to relent as the SP continued to stall Parliament seeking the Minister’s resignation. The SP Parliamentary Board will meet on Thursday to take a call on the issue.

“I have not given any interview saying he [Mr. Yadav] extends support [to the government] after taking commission. But, if anybody’s sentiments are hurt by such remarks, I express my regret,” Mr. Verma said after meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Scotching speculation, he clarified that he had not resigned.

In what appeared to be a damage control exercise between adjournments in the Lok Sabha, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde met Mr. Yadav separately.

In the Lok Sabha, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj came to Mr. Yadav’s defence and said the SP chief was a respected leader of the House and Mr. Verma should either prove his charge or apologise.

After making such “disparaging remarks,” Mr. Verma had “no right to continue in office,” she said, adding the BJP and SP might have political differences but “this is a matter of privilege of the House.”

As soon as the House was adjourned during noon, Ms. Gandhi, who was present in the House, walked up to Mr. Yadav and was seen talking to him with folded hands.

Outside Parliament, SP general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav praised the National Democratic Alliance government regime and said that but for the Babri masjid demolition, the NDA rule was better than that of the UPA’s.

He also praised the former Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee, and said there was “no comparison” between him and Manmohan Singh.

Rejecting Mr. Verma’s expression of regret, several party members said there was a difference between an “apology” and “regret.”

The support of the SP which has 22 members in the Lok Sabha is crucial for the UPA, as also of the Bahujan Samaj Party having 21 members.

BSP chief Mayawati has said that although she has “differences” with the UPA on certain issues, her party will not destabilise the government.