New Delhi: BSP leader Deepak Bhardwaj, the richest candidate to contest the 2009 Lok Sabha polls from Delhi, was shot dead by unidentified men who barged into his sprawling farmhouse here Tuesday morning. Police suspect a property or family dispute to be the cause.
The assailants pumped three bullets into Bhardwaj at his 35-acre farmhouse, 'The Nitesh', in south Delhi's Rajokri area around 9 a.m., police said.
Initial inquiries revealed that the killers entered the farmhouse around 8.55 a.m. in a dark grey Skoda car with a fake registration number, on the pretext of booking a hotel on the premises. Bhardwaj had constructed a hotel, Green Villa, and large buildings on the premises which he would rent out for marriages and other purposes.
"Three men gained entry through the main gate of the farmhouse. They showed their identification cards to the gatekeeper and are reported to have said they wanted to meet Bhardwaj to book the hotel for some function," said police officials.
"Bhardwaj was walking on a lawn, around 200 metres away from the main gate. The men stopped the car near the lawn, and two men alighted and went up to him. An argument ensued between them, after which they opened fire on Bhardwaj," a police official told IANS.
Police said it seems the assailants knew the layout of the farm well and its numerous pathways and shortcuts. They also knew about Bhardwaj's daily routine.
The farm house has two-tier security. Four security guards are positioned at the front door who go through identity cards of all people, note down their phone numbers and ask them the reason for seeking entry. Around 30 metres beyond that is a second gate, manned by security staff who frisk people.
The assailants apparently managed to cross the two-tier security easily.
After shooting Bhardwaj -- two bullets hit him in the chest and one in the head -- the men took a short cut to reach the main gate.
As soon as their car reached the gate, two of them got off brandishing guns. One kept his gun pointed at the terrified security staff, while the other opened the gate. The man at the wheel drove the car through the gate, the two accomplices got in and the car sped away towards Gurgaon, police said.
According to CCTV footage from the front gate, one of the men who sported long hair and was attired in a T-shirt, trousers and sports shoes opened the gate while his associate, wearing T-shirt and jeans, kept a pistol pointed at the gate keeper and security guards.
The number of the car was reported to be DL3C 7062, which was later found to be fake. The vehicle is yet to be traced.
Bhardwaj, 61, who dabbled in real estate, hotels and education, was rushed to Fortis Hospital in Vasant Kunj where doctors declared him dead. His body has been sent to the mortuary of All India Institute of Medical Sciences. The post-mortem may be conducted Wednesday.
Police said three rounds had been fired at him from automatic revolvers.
"Prima facie, it appears to be a case of personal rivalry or family dispute," an official said, adding that the assailants looked like contract killers.
Bhardwaj unsuccessfully contested the 2009 polls as a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate and his recorded assets were worth over Rs.603 crore then.
Police said Bhardwaj has two sons - Nitesh, 32, and Hitesh, 35.
Nitesh, who takes care of the real estate business of Bhardwaj, is married to a cousin of film star Shah Rukh Khan's wife Gauri. He is living with his mother in Dwarka. He had filed a police case against his father a few months ago over a property or family issue, police said.
"Recently, Nitesh had filed an FIR against Bhardwaj over some property matters. Bhardwaj had also filed a complaint against Nitesh, who was handling the property business. It is not confirmed how long he was staying away from his father," said an official.
Hitesh runs the Shiksha Bharti school in Dwarka and resides in Vasant Kunj area of south Delhi.
Police are yet to trace the culprits. They are studying the footage of several CCTV cameras installed in the farmhouse.
Around six teams -- including Crime Branch and a special task force unit of south Delhi police -- are looking into the case.