The Election Commission of India on Wednesday issued a notice to former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath for calling Bharatiya Janata Party leader Imarti Devi an “item”, PTI reported. Nath has been asked to respond within 48 hours.

The poll body cited the Model Code of Conduct and said that no party should indulge in activities that create tension between the people of different castes and communities, according to Hindustan Times.

A controversy erupted after Nath, at a poll meeting in Gwalior’s Dabra district on Sunday, said Congress candidate Suresh Raje was a “simple man”, unlike his opponent who was an “item”. Nath was also dismissive of Devi’s candidature for the bye-elections in the state.

Ye unke jaise nahi hai… kya hai uska naam? [He is not like her, what is her name?],” Nath had asked the crowd that responded with Devi’s name. “You know her better than I do, you people should have warned me beforehand… ye kya item hai… kya item hai.”

On Tuesday, Nath had refused to apologise after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi called his comment “unfortunate”. A day before that, Nath claimed that he had referred to Devi as an “item” because he forgot her name.

The Election Commission had sought a detailed report from the chief electoral officer of Madhya Pradesh on the matter. The National Commission of Women also intervened on Monday and asked Nath for an explanation.

Devi had expressed anger over the remark on Sunday. “What is my fault if I was born in a poor family,” she asked. “What is my fault if I belong to Dalits? I want to appeal to Sonia Gandhi, who is also a mother, to not keep such people in her party. If such words will be used for women then how can any woman move forward?”

Devi had been a minister in Nath’s 15-month government before it collapsed in March this year. She was also among the 22 MLAs who walked out of the party with Jyotiraditya Scindia, leading to its collapse, which had necessitated the upcoming bye-polls.