AHMEDABAD: Police Thursday arrested two aides of Gujarat BJP leader and former MLA Chhabil Patel in connection with the killing of ex-party legislator Jayanti Bhanushali, who was shot dead in a moving train.
Chhabil Patel fled to Muscat a week before the murder.
His two aides -- Nitin Patel and Rahul Patel -- were arrested by the Gujarat CID, which is probing the case, the police said.
Both played a "key role" in taking care of two "sharpshooters" brought from Maharashtra by Chhabil Patel and a woman suspect, Manisha Goswami, to execute the crime, said Additional Director General of Police, CID-Crime, Ajay Tomar.
Bhanushali, who once represented Abdasa in Kutch district in the assembly, was shot dead in a moving train on January 8.
The incident took place when the train was between Bhachau and Samkhiyali stations in Kutch, the police had said.
Investigations till now have revealed that both Chhabil Patel and Manisha Goswami harboured a grudge against Bhanushali and decided to join hands to eliminate their common rival, Tomar told reporters in Gandhinagar.
The sharp-shooters allegedly hired by Chhabil Patel and Manisha Goswami were identified as Shahshikant Kamble and Ashraf Shaikh, both dreaded criminals from Pune, he said.
"Both Chhabil and Manisha had a grudge against Bhanushali over some issues, including financial dealings.
Last year, Manisha was arrested by the Ahmedabad police for blackmailing Bhanushali's nephew, Sunil.
"She remained behind bars for around two months in that case," Tomar said.
"At that time, Chhabil Patel helped Manisha to come out of jail. Both of them had then decided to eliminate their common enemy Bhanushali."
"To do that, they hired two sharpshooters from Pune and kept them at Chhabil Patel's farmhouse in Kutch in December last year," the officer said.
It is alleged that Nitin Patel and Rahul Patel took care of these sharpshooters at Chhabil Patel's farmhouse, located in Reldi village near Bhuj town of Kutch district.
A meeting between Chhabil Patel, Manisha Goswami and other conspirators was held at the farmhouse on December 31.
After finalising the plan, Chhabil Patel fled to Muscat on January 2, a week before the murder, said Tomar.
Bhanushali (53) was attacked when he was travelling in an air-conditioned coupe on the Bhuj-Dadar Express while returning to Ahmedabad from Bhuj.
Chhabil Patel, his son Siddharth Patel and Manisha Goswami were named as "suspects" in an FIR lodged by the Gandhidham railway police on January 9.
As planned by Patel, Goswami and others, the two sharpshooters boarded the train from Bhachau and allegedly shot Bhanushali in the early hours of January 8, said Tomar.
"The sharpshooters fired two rounds on Bhanushali as soon as he opened the door of his coupe upon hearing knocks.
Kamble and Shaikh fled from the compartment after pulling the chain near Samakhiyali station.
"They then fled to Pune via Radhanpur in a vehicle provided by their aides," said Tomar.
The police were yet to establish the whereabouts of Goswami, who was in Kutch till January 6 to provide support to the shooters in carrying out the murder plan, he said.
Meanwhile, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said the police were taking all necessary action in the case and the "guilty will not be spared".
Bhanushali represented the Abdasa assembly seat from 2007 to 2012.
Chhabil Patel, as the Congress candidate, had defeated him from Abdasa in the 2012 assembly elections.
Within two years, Chhabil Patel switched sides and joined the BJP, but lost the bypoll for the seat in 2014.
In the 2017 polls, the BJP chose Chhabil Patel over Bhanushali for the Abdasa seat, but he lost to the Congress candidate.
In his complaint to the Gandhidham railway police, Bhanushali's nephew Sunil Bhanushali had alleged Chhabil Patel held his uncle responsible for his defeat in 2014 and 2017 and held a grudge against him.
In the complaint, Sunil Bhanushali had also alleged that to end Jayanti Bhanushali's political career, Chhabil Patel and others made a CD which showed his uncle in a compromising position with a woman.
When Bhanushali refused to retire from politics as allegedly demanded by Chhabil Patel, the latter hatched the murder plan, the complaint said.