On the run for 4 years, ‘baba’ held for BSP leader’s murder
ARRESTED Pratibhanand was hired by Deepak Bhardwaj’s son, nabbed in Ghaziabad while on his way to Haridwar
GHAZIABAD: Ghaziabad police on Saturday arrested self-styled godman Baba Pratibhanand who was wanted in Delhi in connection with the murder of Bahujan Samaj Party leader and businessman Deepak Bhardwaj in 2013.
Investigations in the murder had revealed that Pratibhanand had hired contract killers to eliminate Bhardwaj, a real estate tycoon and the richest candidate in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, with declared assets of nearly Rs 600 crore.
The arrest is the latest in the saga of ‘godmen‘ in India found to be involved in ghastly crimes ranging from sexual abuse to murder.
Machendranath alias Pratibhanand — a native of Beed in Maharashtra — nursed ambitions to build his own ashram. He allegedly demanded ₹5 crore for Bhardwaj’s contract killing, out of which he had planned to keep ₹2 crore to himself for building an ashram in Haridwar.
“Pratibhanand was arrested from Ghaziabad junction by a police team and booked under the Arms Act as a pistol was seized from his possession. After getting information that he was headed to Haridwar, we launched a manhunt and nabbed him. He was absconding since Bhardwaj’s killing and has confessed to having provided shooters to kill Bhardwaj,” said HN Singh, senior superintendent of police, Ghaziabad.
The officer said the self-styled godman had arranged two shooters for Bhardwaj’s murder and had a bounty of Rs 1 lakh on his head but had been evading the police for more than four years.
“I did this (offer shooters to kill the MLA) for a clean society,” Pratibhanand said.
According to sources, Pratibhanand had run away from Maharashtra during his childhood and had arrived in Delhi where he became the ‘baba’ at a temple.
In 2013, Bhardwaj’s son Nitesh had confessed that he had got his father killed by assailants provided by Pratibhanand. He held a grudge against his father for refusing to give him a share in his (Bhardwaj’s) property to him.
The conspiracy was hatched six months before the killing.
Pratibhanand was roped in by an accomplice of Nitesh. The selfstyled godman hired Purushottam Rana alias Monu and Sunil Mann, as the two shooters who allegedly gunned down the BSP leader on March 26, 2013, inside his farmhouse.