The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Tuesday wrote to the Election Commission to complain against Narendra Modi’s comments at a rally earlier in the day, where he urged first-time voters to dedicate their votes to the defence forces in the wake of the Pulwama attack and the Balakot air strike.

The party contended that this amounted to a violation of the Election Commission’s March 9 directive that instructed political parties to keep the defence personnel out of election campaigning and not to use their photographs in advertisements.

“With deep anguish we are drawing your attention to the latest violation of Model Code of Conduct by the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi,” CPI(M) politburo member Nilotpal Basu wrote, according to PTI. “He is also violating the specific direction of the Election Commission to refrain from invoking the armed forces for seeking votes.”

Basu’s letter urged the Election Commission to “strongly initiate” appropriate action on violations of the model code, a set of guidelines to ensure free and fair elections. “We urge you to strongly initiate appropriate action to stop the pre-election atmosphere from being vitiated which is fast degenerating towards polarisation based on identity and assertion of national symbol for partisan electoral interests,” he wrote.

At a rally in Maharashtra’s Latur district on Tuesday, Modi said, “I want to ask the first-time voter, can your vote be dedicated to those soldiers who conducted air strike on Balakot in Pakistan?” he asked. “Can your first vote be dedicated to those soldiers who were killed in Pulwama attack?”

The Indian Air Force had struck a Jaish-e-Mohammad camp in Balakot on February 26, days after a terrorist attack killed 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir. Jaish-e-Mohammad had claimed responsibility for the attack.

Basu in his letter also claimed that the Election Commission had dealt lightly with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath over his comment describing the armed forces as “Modi ki Sena” or Modi’s army, which he made at a rally in Uttar Pradesh on March 31. The Election Commission sought a report on the remark and then asked the Bharatiya Janata Party leader to be more careful in his speeches.

Basu in his letter also complained of Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s remarks at a recent election rally. “In his election campaign he asserted that they did not need votes from those wearing ‘dhothis and lungis’, alluding to linguistic and religious minorities in the state. The situation in Assam is quite vulnerable,” he wrote, calling the remark “brazenly provocative”. According to local reports, Sarma made the remarks on April 7, ostensibly to argue that the BJP would get the votes of ethnicities considered indigenous to Assam.