Shiv Sena leader’s clout, land mafia: Cops look for answers in Sachin Sawant murder case
A political rivalry, his growing political clout, a tug-of-war waged by land mafia over redevelopment of slums in Malad (East) and Kandivli (East), and the role of two musclemen — the police are trying to connect the dots in the murder of the 46-year-old Shiv Sena leader, Sachin Sawant.
Sawant was shot dead at point-blank range in an alley, between his residence and a Shiv Sena shakha at Ganesh Krupa chawl in Durga Nagar on Akurli Road in Kandivli (East) around 8pm on Sunday.
Several slums dot Malad (East) and Kandivli (East), which various developers are keen on developing under the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA), said crime branch sources.
Sawant had considerable political clout in the area, they said. Some builders in the area did not like his influence because he was popular among people and could scuttle land mafia’s plan to redevelop slums.
The slums near the posh Lokhandwala area in Kandivli (East) are the most sought after, as after redevelopment, each flat will cost Rs50 lakh. Experts said the cost of the SRA project could run into several thousand crores.
The only reasonable opposition to Sawant’s political clout came from two musclemen: Jayendra Singh alias Debu Singh and Uday Pathak, said sources. Singh, a gangster from Azamgarh district in Uttar Pradesh, has a room in the slums and his men called the shots.
“Singh’s gang was wanted for the first attempt on Sawant’s life in June 2010. We are not ruling out the possibility of the same gang in this case too,” said sources. Uday Pathak’s gang, known for the Kurar quadruple murder, ran his writ in the area because Singh fled Mumbai after the murder attempt on Sawant’s life in 2010. After Uday Pathak’s arrest in the quadruple murder, his younger brother Jitendra had taken over the reins of the gang, but was murdered in Jaunpur district of Uttar Pradesh over a dispute,” said sources.
A crime branch officer, who is a part of the investigation, said developers have sought the help from Singh and Pathak to eliminate any opposition to their realty projects. However, they used to face stiff challenge from Sawant, who was said to be the voice of slum dwellers, said the officer.
“It was because of Sawant’s clout that a Shiv Sena corporator won from the area after two decades,” said the officer.
Had Sawant been named as the Shiv Sena shakha chief, his dominance would have multiplied; and this possibly could have been the reason for his rivals to eliminate him, added the officer.
Sawant foresaw SRA project as a life threat
Hours before he was shot dead on Sunday, Shiv Sena leader Sachin Sawant, 46, had received a phone call in the afternoon, after which he told his friends that his life was in danger owing to an ongoing SRA project in Kandivli.
Sawant had received several calls from the same person this month, which had him agitated and worried, said one of his relatives.
Sawant, however, did not reveal the details of the calls to his family. “When a relative, who is a police officer, asked him about the phone calls and threat calls, he would keep mum and become restless,” said a family member.
Around 1.30 pm on Sunday, Sawant received a phone call when he was seated in the office of Akash Developers, below his residence at Ganesh Krupa chawl in Durga Nagar on Akurli Road in Kandivli (East). “After the phone call, he told people in the office that he feared for his life and that the SRA project will cost him his life someday,” said another close relative of Sawant.
On the day of murder, Sawant had spent two hours speaking with his wife, discussing the future of their two children. He also took his children and wife to have pani puri, an unusual gesture, said the relative.
One official of Kurar police station said. “We are checking call data records.”