Two persons from Maharashtra were arrested in connection with the January 8 killing of ex-Gujarat BJP lawmaker Jayanti Bhanushali, a senior police official said Sunday.
Mr Bhanushali, a former BJP MLA from the state's Abdasa Assembly constituency, was shot dead on board the Bhuj-Dadar Express between Bhachau and Samkhiyali stations in Kutch district.
Speaking to reporters Sunday, Director General of Police, CID (Crime) Ashish Bhatia identified the two arrested sharpshooters as Sasikant Kamble and Ashraf Sheikh, both residents of Yerawada near Pune in Maharashtra.
"They were arrested on Saturday from a guest house in Saputara in Dang district. The two allegedly carried out Bhanushali's murder at the behest of former BJP leader and ex-MLA Chhabil Patel. Both Kamble and Sheikh are history-sheeters with several cases against their names," he said.
"They were in direct contact with Chhabil Patel who met them in Mumbai two months before the crime and offered Rs 30 lakh to carry out the murder. They were paid Rs 5 lakh in advance," Mr Bhatia said.
Chhabil Patel reportedly escaped to Muscat in Oman a week before the murder.
The DGP said Kamble visited Ahmedabad three times and also went to Bhuj with Chhabil Patel, who showed him Mr Bhanushali's residence.
The official said Kamble decided to kill Mr Bhanushali on a train and even conducted reconnaissance for it but aborted a plan to kill him on December 31 as the two did not have specific information regarding the latter's travel plans.
"After receiving specific information, they went ahead to commit the murder on January 8," Mr Bhatia said.
Police said the two shooters boarded the train at Bhachau in the early hours of January 8.
According to police, the probe so far revealed that Chhabil Patel and another accused Manisha Goswami held a grudge against Mr Bhanushali and conspired to kill him.
A meeting was held between Chhabil Patel, Manisha Goswami and other conspirators at a farmhouse on December 31, the police have said.
After finalising the plan to eliminate Mr Bhanushali, the accused Chhabil Patel left for Muscat on January 2.
Chhabil Patel, his son Siddharth Patel and Manisha Goswami were named in a complaint lodged by the Gandhidham railway police on January 9.
Goswami is on the run though she was in Kutch till January 6 to provide help to the shooters, police said.
Nitin Patel and Rahul Patel, two aides of Chhabil Patel, were arrested on January 27 in connection with the case.
Chhabil Patel, then with the Congress, had defeated Mr Bhanushali from Abdasa in the 2012 Assembly elections.
Within two years, Chhabil Patel switched sides and joined the BJP, but lost the by-poll for the seat in 2014.
In the 2017 polls, the BJP chose Chhabil Patel over Mr Bhanushali for the Abdasa seat, but he lost to the Congress candidate.
In his complaint to the Gandhidham railway police, Mr Bhanushali's nephew Sunil Bhanushali had alleged Chhabil Patel held his uncle responsible for his defeat in 2014 and 2017 polls and therefore held a grudge against him.
In the complaint, Sunil had also alleged that to end Mr Bhanushali's political career, Chhabil Patel and others made a video clip which showed his uncle in a compromising position with a woman.
When Mr Bhanushali refused to retire from politics as demanded by Chhabil Patel, the latter hatched the murder plan, the complaint alleged.
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