The Gujarat Police on Thursday arrested two aides of former Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Chhabil Patel in connection with the murder of ex-BJP legislator Jayanti Bhanushali. Bhanushali was killed on a moving train on January 8. Patel left the country hours after the murder.
The police said that the arrested aides, Nitin Patel and Rahul Patel, played a “key role” in “taking care” of two sharpshooters from Pune, named Shashikant Kamble and Ashraf Shaikh, who allegedly murdered Bhanushali, PTI reported. The sharpshooters were hired by Chhabil Patel and a woman who had accused Bhanushali of rape in July 2018, the police said.
The rape allegation had led to Bhanushali’s resignation as the BJP’s state vice president. The woman had moved the Gujarat High Court against him, but later withdrew the charges. “Both the leaders had been implicating each other in rape cases,” an unidentified police official said, referring to Chhabil Patel and Bhanushali.
“Both Chhabil and the woman had a grudge against Bhanushali over some issues, including financial dealings,” a police officer said. “Last year, the woman was arrested for blackmailing Bhanushali’’s nephew, Sunil.” The officer said Chhabil Patel helped her get out of jail after a two-month imprisonment. Later, the two hatched a plan to eliminate Bhanushali.
Crime Investigation Department Additional Director General of Police Ajay Tomar said a third person, identified as Surjit Patel alias Bhau, was also involved in the crime, The Indian Express reported. “The duo held a meeting with gang members of Bhau in November 2018 in Pune where they plotted the whole scheme of things,” he said.
Kamble and Shaikh allegedly stayed at Chhabil Patel’s farmhouse at Reladi in Bhuj district from December 31 to conduct a recce of Bhanushali’s activities. After murdering Bhanushali aboard the Shivaji Nagari Express on January 8, the accused pulled the chain, and alighted at Samakhiyali, Tomar said. They then left for Pune in a car waiting for them, he said.