Karnataka Congress leader Priyank Kharge on Thursday told the Election Commission that he called Prime Minister Narendra Modi inept for his empty rhetoric on the Banjara community at an election rally.

He told the poll panel that he did not violate the Model Code of Conduct during his speech.

On Wednesday, the Election Commission had issued a show-cause notice to the Chittapur MLA for allegedly violating the Model Code of Conduct by calling Modi “nalayak” or inept.

“When you [Modi] came to Gulbarga [Kalaburagi] what did you tell the people of Banjara community?” Kharge had said at a rally. “‘You do not be afraid. A son of Banjara is sitting in Delhi’. If such an inept son is sitting in Delhi, how can you run the family?”

Three Bharatiya Janata Party leaders – Piyush Goyal, Anil Baluni and Om Pathak – had alleged that Kharge had invoked caste through his abusive comments.

In his response to the poll panel, the Congress legislator alleged that the BJP government in the state has deeply hurt the Banjara community with its anti-Scheduled Caste policies. He alleged that the Union government had “brazenly rejected” the possibility of increasing reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in a reply to Parliament on March 14.

“This pains me immensely and especially because of the fact that the Nagmohan Das Committee, which recommended the enhanced reservations for SC’s and ST’s, was appointed by me as Karnataka’s then Minister for Social Justice in order to do justice to the downtrodden sections of the society and bring them at par with full rights, respect and honour,” Kharge told the Election Commission.

The Congress leader said his statement did not amount to an attack on the prime minister’s personal life. “In fact, my statements were in response to his public speech as a BJP leader, exposing the empty nature of his soaring rhetoric,” he said.

The Election Commission on Tuesday took note of the “plummeting” level of campaign discourse ahead of the Karnataka Assembly elections and asked political parties to focus on “issue-based” debates. In an advisory, the poll panel had urged the star campaigners of parties to exercise restraint and maintain “the expected level of dignity”.

The Election Commission had noted that, according to the Model Code of Conduct provisions, the use of provocative and inflammatory statements as well as attacks on the personal character and conduct of political rivals vitiate the level playing field.