It was neither Varun Gandhi, nor Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi whom dreaded don Chotta Shakeel had planned to eliminate. It was the convener of the Sri Ram Sene, Pramod Muthalik.
The startling revelation follows intercepts of conversations Rashid Malbari, the close Shakeel aide who was arrested on Sunday in a joint operation of the Karnataka and Kerala police, had with Shakeel in the second week of March.
The intercepts were picked up from three different mobile phones Malbari used while talking to Shakeel. The transcripts reveal that while Shakeel was keen on striking at either Varun or Narendra Modi, Malbari convinced him that Muthalik would be an easier and equally important target.
With polls in India in the offing, Shakeel’s purpose was to create confusion and terror in Indian political circles. He assured Malbari complete support, with volunteers and weapons, in carrying out the assassination.
But Malbari refused. Holed up in his hideout in Kasargod, Kerala, he said security was too tight for him to target these leaders and besides, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, were too far away. He suggested going after Muthalik instead, claiming his killing would have the same political impact.
Shakeel had never heard of Muthalik. Malbari filled him in with the background, including Muthalik’s stormy relationship with the Sangh parivar and the attack on the Mangalore pub, finally managing to convince him that Muthalik was worth killing.
Following a tip off from the Intelligence Bureau, which had been tracking the phone conversations, the police finally zeroed in on Malbari and another associate Sahil Ismail Sheikh at their Kasargod hideout. The leads obtained from their interrogation led to the arrest of three more members of Shakeel’s D-company within hours.