Just weeks before Chhattisgarh Assembly elections slated for later this year, chief minister Raman Singh suffered a major setback as his police barged into district Congress office and brutally assaulted party workers in Bilaspur on Tuesday.

Police strike, second of its kind after Mahasamund MLA was badly beaten in June, triggered such a widespread outrage that the BJP had to retreat after initial justifications and the chief minister himself announced magisterial probe into the incident.

Probably, for the first time in the history of independent India, barring emergency era excesses, a large contingent of police barged into the office of a political party and wrecked havoc there. The assault was preceded by minor skirmishes between agitating Congress workers and the sleuths. Enraged Congressmen were out on their proposed gherao of minister for urban development Amar Agrawal’s residence after his purported derogatory utterances gone viral recently. The minister however, squarely denied the allegation saying he does not use such a filthy language.

Cops led by additional superintendent of police Neeraj Chandrakar, restrained themselves while the agitation was going on but surrounded the Congress office soon after party workers reached there. Baton-lad sleuths barged into the premises and starting beating everyone present there including women and media persons. Media persons who were illtreated by the police said, it seemed that the cops were out to ‘kill someone’.

PCC general secretary Atal Shrivastav and other prominent leaders were hit on the head. 25 Congress workers were seriously injured in the action, while 52 were taken into custody. PCC chief Bhupesh Baghel rushed to Bilaspur immediately and angrily declared a ‘grand welcome’ to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is slated to visit the state on 22 September, if guilty police officers are not punished till Thursday.

Grand old party took no time in likening the incident to gruesome Jheerum Ghati massacre of May 2013 in which entire Congress top brass was wiped out by the left wing rebels. Baghel has always maintained that the government was complicit in Jheerum Ghati massacre.

Chief minister Raman Singh condemned the brutal assault and ordered a magisterial enquiry into the incident.

Defiant Congress however, made it clear that it will not accept any enquiry except by a sitting High Court Judge. BJP initially tried to shield the police barbarity but retreated quietly once Raman Singh openly expressed his displeasure.

Earlier in June, cops led by City SP Uday Kiran inflicted brutal assault on Mahasamund MLA Vimal Chopra and his supporters.

Police action in Bilaspur however, took the public outrage to a boiling point and social media has been abuzz with people expressing their anger openly. BJP supporters who usually defend government and the party have since then maintained an eerie silence. “It is a known fact that the BJP and Congress are at loggerheads in Chhattisgarh but that does not give the police a valid excuse to play a partisan role.

This action of police is bound to alienate a large section of voters from the ruling BJP”, political commentator Ashok Tomarsaid. There are few who believe that it could be a well crafted political gimmick by someone in the government or the ruling BJP to dislodge Bilaspur MLA and minister Amar Agrawal.