November 24, 2020 5:12:40 am
Two days after a Congress councillor of Jhalod Municipality, Antim Agarwal alias Pintoo, died allegedly after consuming poison, his family members on Monday sought probe suspecting foul play. Agarwal’s maternal uncle Kiritkumar Makkhanlal, in his statement to the police, has said that his nephew could have “consumed poison by force under distress”.
The Dahod district police has registered a case of accidental death at Jhalod police station and begun probe into the allegations.
In his statement to the police, Makkhanlal has said that his elder brother Gopal informed him about Agarwal having consumed poison but the family did not know his whereabouts.
“A few minutes later, my brother called me again and said that he has learnt that our nephew was at the Mangale-shwar Mahadev temple and was being brought to Sundaram hospital in Jhalod. Gopal told me that he, along with Krishnakumar Agarwal (another relative), Tappu Vasaiyya and Anil Bhabhor were bringing Agarwal to the hospital on Bhabhor’s motorcycle and I should immediately reach the hospital,” Makkhanlal has said in his statement.
He has further added that the doctors at the hospital, administering primary treatment to Agarwal had found a bottle of a pesticide pill that is usually mixed with grains, leading to the presumption that Agarwal, 48, consumed an overdose of the pesticide. Makkhanlal, however, has told the police that he suspects foul play. In his statement, Makkhanlal has said, “We firmly believe that our nephew has consumed the poisonous pills under distress and threat from someone. The police must conduct a thorough investigation into his death.”
Bhabhor and Vasaiyya’s wife are BJP councillors from civic wards adjacent to Agarwal’s. A police officer of Jhalod police station, who is investigating the case, said, “The family has raised suspicion because Agarwal called up at least three persons after consuming the tablets. Two of them were BJP members and one was his family member. The family has said that he told the two BJP councillors that he was being threatened and forced to sign documents that are linked to the murder of BJP leader Hiren Patel. We are examining the call record details and probing all possibilities. At this point, it is difficult to say what led Agarwal to take such a drastic step. We are recording statements of the family and other witnesses.”
A family member of Agarwal told this newspaper, “We have learnt that he told his personal staff to leave him alone at the temple, which is currently under construction. The fact that he called up three people after consuming the tables and told the BJP councillors that he was threatened, is reason enough for us to believe foul play. The political scene has heated up since the murder of Hiren Patel and Pintoo was a strong leader, who won on his own accord for the second time in 2018 from a ward with mostly tribal votes. He knew a lot about the rivalries and possible links to Patel’s murder. It is likely that those involved in Patel’s murder feared that Pintoo would reveal their names. We want a probe.”
Local leaders said that Agarwal, who had won his first term as an independent councillor and supported the Congress-led board, had won his second term on the party’s mandate in February 2018. The Jhalod police are already investigating the possible political link to the alleged contract killing of Patel, executed by a staged hit-and-run on September 27.
Patel’s murder came after a high stakes local election to the posts of president and vice-president of the Jhalod Municipality, held in August this year. Patel was said to have orchestrated a rebellion in the ruling Congress board, which turned tables for the ruling party. Following Patel’s murder, 15 elected councillors had submitted a memorandum to the police, citing threat to life. The police have arrested six accused in connection with Patel’s murder case and two are on the run.
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