The elusive godman, who the police believe is a key conspirator in the killing of BSP leader-cum-businessman Deepak Bhardwaj, allegedly chose to become a part of it to buy his own ashram, sources claimed on Monday.
Thirteen days of investigation have led several police teams trail Swami Pratibhanand across seven cities in as many states. The police now believe that Rs. 3 crore were arranged for the hit at Bhardwaj's farmhouse and that two unsuccessful attempts to eliminate him had been made in January and early March this year.
"Pratibhanand had tried staying at many ashrams across northern and western India but was chucked out of most of these," said an officer.
"When he got thrown out of the Hindu Mahasabha Ashram in central Delhi's Mandir Marg recently, he decided to buy his own ashram for which he needed R1.5 crore," the officer said.
According to police, Pratibhanand, had been searching for an ashram or land over the last one-and-a-half year to set up an ashram in Haridwar, Karnal and Solan.
Pratibhanand, sources claimed, had even brought up the matter among local priests and visited potential properties on his visit to the Kumbh Mela this February.
"So far, police teams have conducted investigations in Nanded at Maharashtra, Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, Haridwar in Uttrakhand, Indore in Madhya Pradesh, Bangalore in Karnataka, Patna in Bihar and Kolkata in West Bengal trailing him on the basis of calls made by him to his aides," the officer said.
Police said Pratibhanand was last seen in Bihar's Patna in casual clothes from where he is suspected to have slipped into Kolkata. It is suspected that he was planning to go to Nepal to evade arrest.
Meanwhile, sources said they were very close to cracking the case and were certain that Bhardwaj's family had something to do with it. The police have asked Bhardwaj's family that no one should leave the Capital till investigation is completed.
"We are currently questioning his lawyer, one Baljeet, who was representing him in around three to four property dispute cases," the officer said. He also indicated that the lawyer might be arrested for his apparent complicity in the conspiracy.
"There were several meetings which took place between the person who planned the conspiracy and Pratibhanand to chalk-out every minor detail of the assassination. It seems they had initially wanted to kill him in Haridwar but failed."
At least four persons, including two sharpshooters, have been arrested and almost 300 people have been questioned so far.