The Trinamool Congress has filed a complaint against Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the Election Commission for his remark that 40 MLAs of the party are in touch with him and will desert it after the results of the Lok Sabha elections are announced on May 23, party MP Derek O’Brien said on Tuesday. The TMC has demanded that Modi provide an explanation for his comment, failing which his nomination should be cancelled.

Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien said they have accused Modi of horse trading. “We are shocked and surprised to hear what he said at a campaign [speech] in Serampore, where he said 40 TMC MLAs will cross over after the declaration of the Lok Sabha results,” he said.

O’Brien said the Trinamool Congress complained that the prime minister was trying to influence voters, and that “impending horse-trading is on its way”. The Trinamool Congress MP alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party’s poll campaign was illegal. “The BJP does not believe in any code of conduct,” he said.

“You are thus requested to ask the prime minister of India, Mr Modi, to give an explanation, failing which, the Trinamool Congress demands that his nomination should be cancelled for violating the Model Code of Conduct,” the letter reads, according to O’ Brien. He said the Trinamool Congress asked the poll panel to take immediate action in this regard.

Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said Modi’s candidature from Varanasi should be cancelled for indulging in horsetrading. “I am saying at least find one...My party does not steal like yours,” she said, according to NDTV.

She further said: “Aren’t you ashamed? You claim yourself to be a protector of the constitution? In spite of being in a constitutional position, you are violating it. You don’t have any right to be the prime minister, ex-prime minister.”

Addressing a rally in Serampore in West Bengal on Monday, Modi had said, “When the results are out on May 23, lotus will bloom everywhere [a reference to the BJP’s party symbol] and your legislators will also abandon you. Even today, 40 of your [Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s] MLAs are in touch with me.”

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav had earlier on Tuesday called Modi’s speech shameful, and said that he should be banned from campaigning for 72 years for it.

The Lok Sabha elections are being held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19. The results will be declared on May 23. Polling is being held in West Bengal in all seven phases.