A LOCAL COURT in Bhachau town of Kutch district sent suspended BJP leader Chhabil Patel to police custody for 10 days on Friday in connection with the murder of his former party colleague Jayanti Bhanushali.
Patel was detained by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Gujarat Police from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport in Ahmedabad after he alighted from a New York flight on Thursday morning and hours later formally arrested. The SIT produced the 57-year-old politician in the court in Bhachau on Friday afternoon, seeking his custody for 14 days. The court, however, sent Patel to the police custody for 10 days.
“We have got his 10 day’s remand,” Gautam Parmar, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police (Railways) confirmed to The Indian Express, adding “prima facie, he has confessed to his crime”. The DIG is heading the SIT, which has officers from Gujarat Railway Police, Criminal Investigation Department (Crime) and Detection of Crime Branch of Ahmedabad as its members.
Bhanushali, a former MLA from Abdasa Assembly constituency in Kutch district was allegedly shot dead in his first class coupe on board the Mumbai-bound Sayaji Nagari Express between Gandhidham and Samakhiyali in Kutch in the early hours of January 8. The politician was on his way back home to Ahmedabad after visiting his constituency in Kutch when alleged sharp-shooters boarded the train, shot Bhanushali in chest and head, then pulled the chain to get down and sped away on a motor-bike.
In his complaint, Bhanushali’s nephew Sunil had named Patel, his son Siddharth, a woman who had alleged rape by Bhanushali, one Surjit Patel alias Bhau, and Jayanti Thakkar of Dungra village. Police said that Patel, who was elected MLA from Mandavi seat in 2002 and Abdasa in 2012 on Congress tickets, gave contract to the sharp-shooters from Pune to kill Bhanushali over political rivalry. In the 2012 Assembly election, Patel, as Congress candidate, had defeated Bhanushali, the then sitting MLA of the BJP from Abdasa seat. That electoral fight triggered a political rivalry between the two, which continued even after Patel resigned from the Congress in the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and joined the BJP.
In July last year, Bhanushali was booked for rape in Surat on the basis of a complaint filed by the woman who stated he assaulted her sexually after promising her to help her get admission to a college in Ahmedabad. However, Bhanushali’s family had alleged that the politician had been framed in the case at the behest of Patel due to old rivalry. Months later, the woman withdrew her case.
On the other hand, in October last year, Patel was also booked for rape on the basis of a complaint filed by another woman with the Dwarka police of Delhi. In her complaint, the woman had stated that Patel violated her after promising that he would make donation to an NGO. Patel was later granted bail in that case.
Police said that later, Patel, with the help of the woman from Kutch, who had accused Bhanushali of raping her, and Bhau, gave a Rs 30 lakh contract to the sharp-shooters.The SIT has already arrested sharp-shooters Vishal Kamble, Shashikant Kamble and Ashraf Sheikh — all residents of Pune. Rahul Patel and Nitin Patel, aides of Chhabil Patel, too have been arrested. On March 9, police arrested Bhanushali’s son Siddharth accusing him of being part of the conspiracy as he supplied bikes and helmets to the shooters.
However, the Kutch woman, who was also booked by Ahmedabad city police after Bhanushali’s nephew filed a complaint of extortion against her in April last year, and Bhau are still on the run. The woman had later alleged that she was framed the in the extortion case to silence her about her rape by Bhanushali
Meanwhile, Kutch (east) police have arrested Chhabil Patel’s nephew Piyush Vasani and relative Rasik Patel for allegedly conducting a recce of the witnesses of the murder case in Gandhidham. The BJP had suspended Chhabil Patel from the primary membership of the party on January 25 after his name cropped up in the Bhanushali murder case.