The Dahod district police on Thursday detained Amit Katara, son of former Dahod BJP MP Babubhai Katara, for his alleged involvement in the contract killing of Jhalod Municipal Councillor and BJP leader Hiren Patel on September 27.
Katara, who is accused of commissioning the contract, was named by key conspirator Imran Gudala, who was nabbed by the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) from Haryana on December 27, after two months of being on the run.
Gudala, who was remanded to five-day police custody by a local court on Wednesday, is a close aide of the Katara family and has told the police that Katara had “asked him to facilitate the kill money of Rs 4 lakh” to the other accused.
The Local Crime Branch (LCB) of the Dahod police nabbed Katara from Chitrodiya in Jhalod taluka of Dahod district. A senior police official said, “He will be formally arrested after Covid-19 test.”
Police have been investigating the political motive behind the alleged murder and is likely to question Katara about the mysterious death of Congress councillor Antim Agarwal, 48, of Jhalod municipality, who died allegedly after consuming poison at a Mahadev temple located in his municipal ward on November 21.
Agarwal’s family alleged foul play and linked his death to Patel’s murder stating that he Agarwal had made three phone calls — two to local BJP leaders — after allegedly consuming poison. Agarwal’s family has submitted an application to the police stating that they fear that Agarwal was “forced to consume poison under distress”.
An officer said, “Now that we have Katara in custody and have sufficient evidence to point out that there is a motive behind his involvement in the case, we will question Gudala and him simultaneously to corroborate versions. If needed, they will also be brought face-to-face once we seek Katara’s remand.”
Katara’s elder brother, Bhavesh, is the sitting Congress MLA from Jhalod Assembly constituency. His father Babu Katara is a two-time BJP Lok Sabha MP from the ST seat of Dahod — in 1999 and 2004.
In 2007, Katara was arrested at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi for allegedly trying to take a woman and her teenager son to Canada on the passports of his wife and son. Katara joined the Congress party ahead of the 2017 Gujarat Assembly elections, along with his son, Bhavesh, who contested as the party candidate and won the Jhalod constituency. The Congress also fielded Babu Katara in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections as a candidate to take on sitting BJP MP Jaswantsinh Bhabhor from Dahod.
Amit Katara’s wife Kinjal was the president of the Congress-led Jhalod Municipality from February 2018 to August this year. It was after a high-stakes election of the president and vice-president for the second phase of the five-year term of the local body that Patel is said to have tilted the scales in favour of the BJP by allegedly orchestrating “cross-voting” from three Congress members.
The Dahod police, which has arrested six accused in the case so far, has issued instructions to its local crime branch in October-end to look for Imran Gudala alias Immu, after Kalal and other accused named him during the probe.
The other six arrested accused include 2002 Sabarmati train burning incident convinct Irfan Pada, Jhalod resident Ajay Kalal, Ujjain residents Sajjansinh Chauhan and Mohammed Samir Mujawar, owner of a roadside dhaba in Mahidpur in Madhya Pradesh Balram Bhuvanji and Salim Baju Shaikh alias Kala.
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