A video of Congress MLA Joginder Pal assaulting a man who quizzed him over work done in his constituency has added to the ruling party's headaches ahead of next year's Assembly election.
The video shows Pal in a white kurta and addressing a small crowd of people inside a tent in Bhoa in Pathankot district. He appears to be talking about the work he has overseen in the village.
As he speaks it pans to a young man in a dark brown shirt who is on the fringe of the crowd and can be heard muttering. Pal initially glances in his direction, ignores him, and continues with his speech.
A police officer standing next to the man takes him by the arm and tries to quietly lead him away.
The man, identified as a Harsh Kumar by news agency PTI, however, continues questioning Pal, and forces a reaction from the MLA after shouting out a question; he asks, "What have you really done?"
Calmly (at first) Pal asks the man to come up front and hands him the microphone, after which the MLA lands several brutal blows on the man's head.
Joginder Pal, the @INCPunjab MLA from Bhoa assembly seat in Pathankot district, when asked by a young man about his performance in the last 4.5 years....this is how the MLA responded....@ndtvpic.twitter.com/p2AVSOtqjx— Mohammad Ghazali (@ghazalimohammad) October 20, 2021
Worse, the cop who initially tried to lead the man away from any confrontation joins in on the assault, as do the half-a-dozen people standing around.
Between them the mob hit the young man several times, holding him down as he tries to escape. It is only after another policeman intervenes that the man seems to be able to get away.
State Home Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said: "The MLA should not have behaved in this fashion. We are the people's representatives and here to serve them."
Harsh Kumar's mother has slammed the MLA, pointing out that her son had asked a simple question to an elected servant of the people. She has demanded justice for him.
The unsavoury incident has also triggered a political row, with the BJP declaring it showed the Congress' "intolerant" nature. The BJP's Amit Malviya led the pushback.
After Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra turned out journalists from their PCs for asking factual questions, it is turn of Joginder Singh, Congress MLA from Boha in Pathankot, to thrash a young man black and blue for just questioning him.— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) October 20, 2021
This is the intolerant face of Congress. pic.twitter.com/pA8hiKNVjZ
Punjab votes for a new government in a few months, with the Congress scrambling to ensure it retains a government in one of the (very) few states it still controls.
As polls near the Congress has seen a bitter and explosive feud between veteran leader Amarinder Singh and MLA Navjot Sidhu throw it off balance.
Any hope that Mr Singh's quitting as Chief Minister, and the elevation of Mr Sidhu to chief of the party's state unit, will settle tensions has been blown out of the water after reports that the ex-cricketer has now had a flare-up with the new Chief Minister - Charanjit Channi.
The Congress' Punjab hopes have been further dented by news Amarinder Singh - still a hugely influential figure in the state - will float his own party (and may ally with the BJP).
With input from PTI