The Election Commission on Wednesday issued a warning to Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi for referring to the defence forces as “Modiji ki Sena [Narendra Modi’s Army]” and asked him to be careful in the future. The poll body said the minister accepted that he had made the remark at a public meeting in Uttar Pradesh’s Rampur district on April 3.

During a campaign for Rampur candidate Jaya Prada, Naqvi accused the Opposition of questioning the Balakot air strikes. In the video he is seen saying, “Our missiles, our defence personnel annihilated the terrorists after storming their bastions. This is not an ordinary feat. Now the problem is that the Congress, the SP, the BSP started demanding proof of the attack carried out by ‘Modiji ki sena’.”

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath had also called the Army “Modiji ki Sena”. Though the poll body let him off with a warning for the comment, saying it was not satisfied with his response to its notice, it barred the BJP leader from campaigning for 72 hours for comparing the elections to a contest between Ali, a revered figure in Islam and the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad, and Hindu god Hanuman.

The Election Commission said Naqvi’s comments were not in line with the spirit of its multiple advisories asking political parties not to indulge in political propaganda involving the defence forces.

Last week, more than 150 veterans of the Indian armed forces wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind, urging him to stop the politicisation of the military during election campaigns. The letter urged Kovind to “take all necessary steps to urgently direct all political parties that they must forthwith desist from using the military, military uniforms or symbols, and any actions by military formations or personnel, for political purposes or to further their political agendas”.

Apart from Naqvi and Adityanath, BJP leaders Maneka Gandhi, Sakshi Maharaj and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat have made controversial remarks during the elections.

Read more: 1. Lok Sabha polls: Now, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi purportedly calls army ‘Modiji ki sena’

2. Election watch: EC says it is not satisfied with Adityanath’s response on ‘Modiji ki Sena’ remark

3. Maneka Gandhi says Pilibhit villages will be categorised ‘ABCD’ according to how they vote for BJP