TWO MEN arrested for a theft last week had led the Thane Crime Branch to BJP functionary Dhananjay Kulkarni, arrested on Wednesday for allegedly possessing 170 illegal weapons, including 10 choppers, an airgun, 62 pistols, 38 button knives, an axe and other sharp weapons worth Rs 2 lakh.
The two alleged robbers were found in possession of countrymade pistols. When the police interrogated them about the source of their weapons, they spoke about the shop owned by Kulkarni, sources said.
While the police said 49-year-old Kulkarni was the vice-president of the Dombivli unit of the BJP, state leaders have maintained that he no longer held any post in the party. The state leaders have also claimed that Kulkarni sold “antique weapons” used in “rallies and fancy dress competitions”.
While he was the vice-president of the party’s Dombivli unit, he had clout in the area, but over the last two years, he had run into financial trouble. “We are yet to find out if Kulkarni intended to use the weapons personally, but mostly it seems like he bought the weapons once he realised the quick money to be made there. His political clout meant no one would question him, and he could charge a higher premium.
He had several loans, including the loan on the shop he had purchased; and business was not good,” said a police officer. “We need to question him, and thus can’t comment on what exactly was the purpose of the weapons. Only Kulkarni knows why he had the assorted variety of weapons in his garment and gift shop. But these are not the prop items as is being claimed. The weapons we seized are real,” said a senior police officer.
“He opened the Tapasya House of Fashion around five years ago. As the business didn’t pick up, he continued to add things that he would sell in his shops. One could get anything, from clothes to mobile phones and accessories to mobile and DTH recharge coupons. He would sell anything that he could easily source and which was in demand,” said Sadaram Pethe, a shopkeeper on Manpada Road, where Kulkarni had a ground floor store.
Officers said this was the case with the weapons too. “He had sourced his weapons from various places. While the knives and choppers had been bought at Crawford market and from around Maharashtra, the guns and the pistols were probably sourced from Rajasthan and Punjab,” said an officer.
The shop, a hole in the wall of Arihant building, is one of the many ‘house of fashion’ stores in the area. “Readymade garments, cosmetics, perfumes, electronic items, mobiles and mobile accessories, recharge coupons, imitation jewellery, gift articles,” it advertises.
Kulkarni had kept the weapons hidden in the racks of clothes behind the counter and in the storage space at the back of the shop. “The weapons were not kept in one place. It was clear that they were not to be strewn around, but there was enough variety to interest a prospective buyer,” said an officer. The crime branch unit has moved sessions court seeking Kulkarni’s custody.