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Friday, Nov 15, 2019

A crime of passion

If Pravin had made up his mind about killing his brother, he did not reveal it to his wife, reports Sujata Anandan.

india Updated: Apr 30, 2006 02:46 IST
Hindustantimes
         

On April 13, Sarangi Mahajan hid a gun. The .32 Belgian-made Browning pistol belonged to her husband Pravin, BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan’s youngest brother. Pravin got a license for it in 1996 -- brother-in-law Gopinath Munde, who was then Maharashtra’s Deputy Chief Minister and headed the home department, got him the license from the Thane (where Pravin lived) police.

That very day, however, Pravin realised the gun was missing. “There was a heated argument, and she returned the weapon as Pravin ordered her to do so,” said defence lawyer Nandkumar Rajurkar, who is also a family friend. And nine days later, Pravin shot Pramod with that very gun. The motive? “A personal matter,” said the Mumbai police commissioner Anami Roy. A moment of rage, a crime of passion.

Sarangi apparently sensed something bad was about to go down. And she surely wouldn’t have wanted any tragedy considering how, over the years, Pramod had grown to trust her more than he did his own brother.

In fact, even Sarangi’s entry into the family was because of Pramod. The BJP leader, who had become the family patriarch once father Venkatesh died in 1971, saw her at a dance performance at Dharampeth college in Nagpur where he was the chief guest. He liked her so much that he went to the principal and asked about her background, and then he approached her parents with a marriage proposal for Pravin, who had just completed his B.Sc.

Sarangi was a favourite with the family patriarch. As her twins Kapil and Chinki grew older, she did not remain just a homemaker (unlike her socially inactive husband). She took part in social campaigns: She joined the Lion’s Club of Thane, and just four months back participated in a water morcha. Pravin, on the other hand, was finding it difficult to be a successful businessman. He lost his tyre business five years back, but made good use of his brother’s political contacts. BJP insiders say Pravin bagged a contract to construct Shiv Sena supreme Bal Thackeray’s house in Khopoli, a hill station near Mumbai. He also became a consultant to a well-known industrial house’s venture, and even accompanied his brother to an IT conference in Germany while Pramod was IT Minister.

Pratap Ashar (Pramod’s right-hand man) told reporters Pravin expected things to go easy for him. “But Pramodji could only help Pravin to an extent, and this hurt him,” Ashar said. Maybe that’s why Pramod ordered that Sarangi be in charge of her family’s finances. Pravin’s consultancy fees are believed to have gone directly into her accounts, as she was seen as more financially sensible. Pramod’s trust in Sarangi’s steadiness could be seen in the fact that he would often visit Pravin’s in-laws in Nagpur to pay his respects.

And though Pramod continued to treat Pravin as if he were his own son, even buying the Thane flat for his family, Pravin couldn’t have liked the fact that his brother was closer to his wife, no matter how sensible she may have been. And when he got his gun, it became his constant --  perhaps only -- companion. “He was in the habit of whipping out his gun and pointing it at people,” BJP leader Shailesh Sharma told a local paper. Rajurkar said he became extremely high-handed and dictatorial: “He got into frequent tiffs with the security guard at the building.” And, according to Ashar, “Pramodji was worried that his relationship with Pravin would snap as there were too many altercations between them. He used to speak about Pravin often.” And Pravin’s son is also reported to have complained to uncle Pramod on one occasion about how impossible it was to live with his father.

It is believed that Sarangi even spoke of divorce once, which only served to make Pravin more irascible. The final straw for Pravin would have been the fact that he had no access to his brother -- he told the police he was treated like “dirt” by Pramod. “I had been seeking (an) appointment with Pramod for the last 15 days,” his statement to the police says. “Even his personal assistants insulted me.”

If Pravin had made up his mind about killing his brother, he did not reveal it the night before. He had dinner with the family, but his wife did not accompany them. They said he behaved normally, and he even had a paan before going to bed. The next morning, however, he took his morning walk, and drove to Pramod’s Worli flat. Pramod wouldn’t even look up from the newspaper to acknowledge him. And in a fit of rage, Pravin pumped three bullets into his elder brother. And when word spread that Pramod’s life hung in the balance, all Sarangi could do was call up her mother-in-law Prabhavati and ask, “Ai, mee kay karoo? (Mother, what should I do)”