Two weeks after Deepak Bhardwaj,the richest candidate in the 2009 Lok Sabha election,was shot dead inside his farmhouse on the outskirts of Delhi,police have arrested his son Nitesh for allegedly ordering the hit.
Nitesh Bhardwaj,31,was allegedly upset at being deprived of a share in his fathers property,and at being repeatedly humiliated by him.
Police said Nitesh gave the contract for the killing to his 51-year-old lawyer Baljeet Singh Sehrawat,who hired a spiritual guru for the job. Sehrawat,who has been arrested,was allegedly promised Rs 5 crore. The guru,Swami Pratibhanand,is on the run.
Bhardwaj was shot dead by two men while he was on a morning walk on the grounds of his farmhouse in Rajokri on March 26. The assailants,who came in a Skoda Laura sedan,were caught on CCTV camera.
Investigators had from the beginning spoken of the possibility of a family dispute being behind the murder. Top police sources said Bhardwajs wife Ramesh Kumari and his other son Hitesh would be questioned on Wednesday,and that more arrests were likely.
It could not be said for sure yet that other members of the family did not know of the plan to eliminate Bhardwaj,the sources said.
Police said Nitesh was afraid that his father would disinherit Ramesh and transfer all his property to three women close to him a threat that the 62-year-old would frequently make,sometimes while waving a gun at her. The couple had been living separately,and Bhardwaj had taken his wife to court on a dispute over property. He had allegedly also been trying to take over a school that Ramesh ran in Dwarka,having told her to resign as its treasurer,and insisting that the 15 buses hired by the school were parked in his compound.
Ramesh,who lived on the premises of the school,had filed a case of domestic violence against her husband last year,sources said. Nitesh who police said has a Canadian passport and an engineering degree from a college in the US and his brother Hitesh too lived in Dwarka,but separately.
Four others alleged shooters Purushottam Rana and Sunil Mann,Amit,the man who drove the shooters to the farmhouse in the Skoda,and Rakesh,who owned the car had been arrested earlier.
Police have recovered two country-made pistols used in the murder,Rs 30 lakh and a Maruti Swift and a Hyundai Santro besides the Skoda. The Swift is Sehrawats,believed to have been bought with some of the money that he got before the hit.
According to police,the conspiracy began to take shape in October 2012. Nitesh disclosed that he was disturbed at the attitude of his father towards him and the family. He was not even allowed access to the (Rajokri) farmhouse (ironically named Nitesh Kunj) where Bhardwaj was later killed. Five-six months ago,he decided to get rid of his father, DCP (South) Chhaya Sharma said.
Nitesh roped in Sehrawat,whom Sharma described as more of a property dealer than an advocate. Sehrawat,who had done some land deals with both Bhardwaj and his son,allegedly wanted to contest elections,and told Nitesh that he would do the job if Nitesh took care of the whole expenditure.
In January,however,Sehrawat agreed to carry out the hit in return for Rs 5 crore,Sharma said. He got Swami Pratibhanand into the plan. He had been in touch with the godman earlier,and had stayed at his home, she said.
Pratibhanand,who allegedly wanted money to set up an ashram of his own,approached his driver Purushottam Rana,who got in touch with the others. Sehrawat,whom Nitesh had given an advance of Rs 50 lakh,gave the swami Rs 4 lakh,half of which went to Rana for the logistics,including the car and the guns.
As per the deal,the shooters were to ultimately get Rs 1 crore,the godman Rs 2 crore and Sehrawat Rs 3 crore,Sharma said.
Sources said investigators zeroed in on Nitesh after his call detail records suggested he had lied about several things to police,including a secret number which he had used to keep in touch with Sehrawat after having allegedly broken his phone on the day of the murder. Sharma said the roles of Ramesh and Hitesh were still being probed,and they had been asked not to leave the city.
Sources said Pratibhanand,for whom police are hunting across the country,had met Nitesh only once,but had had at least three meetings with Sehrawat. He had been a yoga teacher in Delhi,but had left the city two days before Bhardwaj was killed. He stayed in Haridwar from March 25-30 and used at least ten mobile phone numbers,the sources said.
On March 30,Pratibhanand allegedly met a friend,Avinash Shastri,in Indore,and stayed with him for four days. Police are learnt to have questioned Shastri,but found nothing on him.
Sources said Pratibhanand had applied for a passport six months ago,and some documents had been found in Haridwar. The police may approach a court for a non-bailable warrant against him,and begin looking out for him at railway stations and airports.