MALKHAN’S SISTER INDIRA SAYS BHANWRI HAD MET GEHLOT LAST YEAR AND TOLD HIM ABOUTTHE CD. GEHLOT SAYS HE DOESN’T REMEMBER MEETING HER.
surfaced, he admitted the truth. He told the CBI that while he had an affair with Bhanwri, he was not involved in her disappearance. “Having an affair with someone and making a CD with them is not a crime,” said wife Leela Maderna, as she stepped out after CBI interrogation on November 11. Her designer glasses covered her real emotions.
Not surprisingly, on November 14, the Jodhpur bench of the Rajasthan High Court pulled up the CBI for being tardy in its investigation. “The CBI asked for four weeks but the court gave them 10 days to inform it about Bhanwri’s whereabouts,” says Anand Purohit, additional advocate general, Jodhpur. He adds, “Till today, there is no evidence of murder. The police is cooperating with the CBI.” The court has also warned the CBI not to let this become another unsolved case like the Arushi Talwar murder in Noida.the CBI has interrogated Maderna twice, and Malkhan thrice. During the interrogation, they even made the two confront each other since Maderna had claimed that it was Malkhan who introduced Bhanwri to him. At first Malkhan denied this; he later admitted to it.
Malkhan’s sister Indira Bishnoi, Bhanwri’s confidante, has claimed on November 7 that Bhanwri had met Gehlot sometime last year and told him about the CD implicating Maderna. Gehlot has never categorically denied it. “I meet many people. I can’t remember who met me and who did not. But Bhanwri Devi informing me about the video tape with Maderna is news to me,” he reacted.
Local Congress workers claim that during the initial six months after Gehlot took over as Chief Minister in December 2008, Maderna lost no opportunity to oppose the Chief Minister. But a year later, there was a sudden change and Maderna became compliant. “Perhaps Gehlot was holding the threat of the CD over him,” says a Congress legislator trying to piece together a puzzle that continues to confound the Rajasthan Police as well as the CBI.
It was sometime in 2003 that Malkhan introduced Bhanwri to Maderna when she wanted a transfer for a friend. It was the lure of political favours that tempted the auxiliary nurse to more dangerous pastures. There are whispers that Bhanwri had other liaisons but apart from Maderna
and Malkhan, no other names have come to light. Chand says he knew of only these two: “A woman does not tell her husband these things. I suspected that she had such relations with these two (Malkhan and Maderna) from her phone calls.”
There are allegations that one of her children was actually Malkhan’s and that Bhanwri was keen on a DNA test. “Bacche mere hain. Yeh mai khud
kah sakta hun (The children are mine. I am saying it),” says Chand. This has not stopped the rumour mills. A local businessman claims that during the wedding of Malkhan’s daughter, Bhanwri created a scene at the venue, demanding that one of her daughters, whom she insisted was Malkhan’s child, should get equal due. If local gossip is to be believed, there were many such scenes, one taking place at a Hero Honda showroom in Jodhpur owned by Malkhan sometime last year. “Bhanwri and Malkhan were known to be a couple. Maderna and Bhanwri were never seen in public together,” says a local businessman.
Bhanwri’s house in Baraunda reflects a haphazard influx of money. There is a fridge in the courtyard with a small television perched on top of it. Opposite the fridge is a matka (earthen pot used for cooling water). The kitchen has steel utensils but there is a washing machine that is placed outside the bathroom. A treadmill has also found its way to this dusty village surrounded by fields of bajra. An old-fashioned transistor lies by her bedside. “She liked dressing up,” says Chand with a smile as he recalls one of his wife’s less painful indulgences. In the FIR, too, he wrote that she left home in a “brown designer sari”.
The Bhanwri shockwaves have reached Delhi. Even before the CD was aired, Gehlot had rushed to the capital at least thrice in the space of three weeks. He met Congress President Sonia Gandhi twice. “He has been given one last chance,” says a Congress