Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath took on Congress's Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday over his tweet condemning the recent attack on an elderly Muslim man in Ghaziabad. Accusing the Congress leader of spreading "poison" through "lies", the Chief Minister demanded that he stop "humiliating, defaming the people of Uttar Pradesh".
On June 5, a group of men had abducted Abdul Samad from Loni and threatened him with a knife. Accusing him of being a Pakistani spy, one of them had hacked off his beard.
The group was reportedly chanting "Jai Shri Ram" and "Vande Mataram" slogans.
A video of the incident, in which Mr Samad can be seen pleading with his attackers, has been circulated online.
Posting a news report on the attack on the social media platform, Mr Gandhi had commented, "I am not ready to believe that true devotees of Shri Ram can do this. Such cruelty is far from humanity and is shameful for both society and religion".
Yogi Adityanath responded within hours.
"The first lesson of Lord Shri Ram is - "Speak the truth" which you have never done in life. You should be ashamed that even after the police told the truth, you are engaged in spreading poison in the society. In the greed of power, humanity is being humiliated. Stop humiliating, defaming the people of Uttar Pradesh," read the Chief Minister's tweet.
The police, who arrested three men over the attack, have ruled out any communal angle, news agency Press Trust of India reported. The six attackers included Hindus and Muslims who were unhappy over the amulets Mr Samad had sold them, PTI reported.
With months to go for the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP is highlighting the governance in the state.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted praising a scheme for the elderly that the state government has launched. The praise came amid concern over the situation in Uttar Pradesh ahead of next year's assembly elections.
Within the party, there have been growing murmurs against the Chief Minister over his inability to take everyone along and his government's handling of the Covid pandemic.