The police are yet to establish the motive behind the alleged contract killing of Hiren Patel, BJP leader from Jhalod in Dahod district, on September 27 which was earlier taken for an accident.
The four persons arrested for his alleged murder — Irfan Pada who was on parole after being convicted in the Sabarmati express train burning case of 2002, Ajay Kalal, Ujjain residents Sajjansinh Chauhan and Mohammed Samir Mujawar — were produced virtually before a local court on Thursday and taken on seven-day remand.
The police sought remand stating that they are yet to recover the vehicle used to run into Patel that resulted in his death as well as trace the mastermind of the alleged killing who contracted Kalal, after which the latter contacted Pada to execute the contract.
According to a senior party leader, Patel took the political plunge post 2002 as a worker in Bajrang Dal to later join the BJP. He contested the municipality polls in 2005 on a BJP ticket and won three consecutive terms until his death. Patel was also a member of the Kelavni Mandal in Jhalod and is said to have supervised the distribution of financial aid to needy, thus earning him a lot of supporters in the area.
On Thursday, locals also pelted stones at the house of Kalal after the police revealed that he passed on Rs 4 lakh contract to bump off Patel. Kalal, who was sent to Vadodara Central Jail under PASA for bootlegging, has since been known to be close to one of Patel’s political rivals, thus sparking off the local anger against him.
A senior BJP functionary said, “Patel’s death is a big loss for the party in Jhalod, where we don’t have much hold. The party will miss his work in the upcoming local polls. He was a dedicated party worker. The police are working on the leads and it will soon reveal the truth. We have learnt that some big local development contracts had turned into a contentious issue ever since the recent elections of the president and vice-president (of the municipality). Some elements in the political circle blamed Patel for the sequence of events that led to the showdown during the election.”
The election in contention — touted to be a high stakes one locally — was held on August 25, just a month before the alleged killing. Local leaders said that about three months before the polls, three Congress councillors and one independent councillor had gone into hiding, allegedly at the insistence of Patel.
According to the police, the accused had hatched a plot to kill Patel in a manner that would appear like an accident. On the morning of September 27, when Patel had stepped out around 6 am, the accused ran a Light Motor Vehicle (LCV) into him at a secluded spot at Muwada junction in Jhalod, ensuring that the impact was strong enough to fatally injure Patel. The accused had previously done a recce of the route that Patel usually took on his morning walk.
Patel, according to leaders, was not only influential but also the one man whom the BJP relied on for party activities and ticket distribution during the elections.
Patel, who was the Jhalod unit President of the BJP had served as a former President of the Jhalod Municipality and was a three-term councillor. He was also a member who had a crucial vote in the upcoming APMC polls, leaders said.
In 2008, Patel has sustained injuries in an assault when a rival faction within the BJP, led by former MP Babu Katara’s son allegedly assaulted him with a sword for not casting his vote. Both Patel and Katara had filed counter cases against each other.
Superintendent of Police Joysar said, “We have not received any complaints from any elected representatives regarding any threat to Patel in this year. The previous case of assault dates back to 2008-09. The probe is ongoing to ascertain the motive behind the contract killing and also find out who has commissioned the contract.”
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