Richest nominee shot dead

New Delhi, March 26: A real estate tycoon who was officially the richest candidate in the last general election was shot dead in his southwest Delhi farmhouse by three assailants shortly after 9am today.

Deepak Bharadwaj, 62, who started out as a Delhi government steno, had declared assets of Rs 603 crore in 2009, apparently a record for any Indian election till a year ago.

Contesting on a Bahujan Samaj Party ticket in his first ever election, Bharadwaj lost from the West Delhi constituency and since then has had little to do with politics.

As a realtor he faced two pending land-grab cases in Delhi's criminal courts, one of them involving the plot on which the farmhouse where he was shot stands.

Police officers were quick to draw comparisons with last November's murder of liquor baron Ponty Chadha, shot dead at his Delhi farmhouse allegedly by the henchmen of his estranged brother over a property dispute. The police are investigating a property angle and an inside job in Bharadwaj's murder too.

While the twice-married Bharadwaj's business was booming, his wife and two sons were estranged from him and lived in Dwarka, west Delhi. Younger son Nitesh, a hotel management graduate, too is twice-married and has split from his current wife Priyanka Tiwari, cousin of actor Shah Rukh Khan's wife Gauri. Elder son Hitesh is in real estate.

"There was a property dispute in the family. The ease with which the assailants gained entry suggests an inside job and a pre-planned operation," an officer said.

He hinted that Bharadwaj's wife Ramesh Kumari, head teacher at a Bharadwaj-owned school, might be questioned.

Bharadwaj was shot twice at point-blank range, in the head and the chest, and died at a south Delhi hospital.

"Around 8.55am, three people came in a dark grey Skoda.... They entered the place saying they wanted to make a booking for a wedding. They started talking to Bharadwaj and shot him twice," police commissioner Neeraj Kumar said. "There are many angles: family stays away from him. His wife and sons stay away from him at Dwarka...."

CCTV footage shows two men, brandishing guns, running out of the farmhouse and towards the gate where a third person waits in a car. One of the gunmen threatens the guard while the other opens the gate to let the car out.

Bharadwaj's record was overtaken during last June's Andhra Pradesh Assembly by-elections when the Telugu Desam's Gunpati Deepak Reddy declared Rs 6,781 crore before losing from Rayadurg.


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