M A I N   N E W S

Pramod Mahajan shot at
Condition critical; younger brother surrenders
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, April 22
Bharatiya Janata Party General Secretary Pramod Mahajan (56) is on life support at Mumbai's Hinduja Hospital after he was shot at point blank by his brother early this morning.

The incident happened at around 7.30 this morning at Mahajan's 14th floor apartment in the posh Purna Housing Society at Worli in Central Mumbai. According to preliminary information released by the police, Pramod's brother Pravin drove up at around 6.15 am and the two brothers had a long argument. Shortly afterwards, Pravin pulled out a 9mm Browning revolver and shot at Pramod from close range.

Mumbai's Joint Commissioner of Police Arup Patnaik, however, felt that it was a premeditated attack on the BJP leader. "It was a premeditated attack as he came with a gun, which he does not normally carry. It is not that he carried out the attack on the heat of the moment," Mr Patnaik said.

Sources also added that all angles to the case are being probed. the police is said to have questioned Pravin about Pramod Mahajan's relations with his (Pravin's) wife and children.

While three bullets penetrated Pramod's body, another misfired.

Mahajan's relatives and neighbours, including a doctor, rushed the bleeding BJP leader to hospital. "I saw Pramodji's distraught wife screaming 'maar daala' as she along with others took him to hospital on the building lift," former BJP minister and neighbour Jaywantiben Mehta said outside the Hinduja hospital.

After the shooting Pravin drove up to the nearest police station and surrendered. Incidentally, nobody stopped Pravin, even though the building is heavily guarded by the police and other paramilitary forces.

He was arrested and charged with attempt to murder under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code only after he surrendered.

Reading from the medical bulletin put out by the hospital, party leader L.K. Advani said three bullets pierced Mahajan's chest and entered his liver and damaged the diaphragm and hit the pancreas before lodging inside his small intestine. Doctors at the hospital said Mahajan had suffered extensive injuries to his liver. He had also lost a lot of blood by the time he was brought into the hospital at around 8.20 am, some 45 minutes after being shot.

Dr S Bhattacharya who performed the operation on Mahajan said the bullets have "shattered" Mahajan's organs and the IVC, a key pipeline of blood leading to heart.

About 40 bottles of blood were pumped into Mahajan's body to make up for the loss by bleeding. Despite a four-hour long surgery doctors weren't able to completely stop the bleeding. "Blood continues to be pumped into Mr Mahajan to make up for continuing loss of blood," a senior Hinduja doctor said.

With Mahajan's vital signs weakening doctors decided to postpone further surgery on him. All the three bullets still remain lodged inside his body. Mahajan is on life support and is breathing with the help of a ventilator at the hospital's special ICU complex. Doctors said late this afternoon that Mahajan "was battling for his life" and the next 72 hours were critical.

The situation has become complicated since Mahajan suffers from diabetes, hospital officials said.

According to sources here, Pravin, 47, was estranged from Pramod Mahajan for the past many years. Pravin had not even attended the wedding of Pramod's daughter though the BJP leader was a father figure in the family of five siblings.

BJP sources said that Pravin wasn't well off and Pramod had bought the flat at Jinja Apartments in Thane where he lived with his wife and twin children. The BJP leader is also believed to have helped Pravin land a job with Reliance Infocomm and even set up a construction business.

Pravin's lawyer Nand Kumar Rajurkar said outside the Worli police station that his client was mentally ill and was suffering from depression. "He could not give coherent answers as to what he did in Pramod Mahajan's house," Rajurkar said.

The lawyer claimed that he was an old friend of Pravin and had rushed to the police station after hearing of the incident.

Police however said they will send Pravin for a psychiatric evaluation later in the day. He will be produced before the holiday court at Bhoiwada on Sunday.

It is still not clear as to what provoked the attack on Pramod Mahajan. However party sources felt that there could have been a property dispute between the two. However the police said they were investigating all angles.

Senior politicians rushed to the hospital to inquire about Mahajan's health. Apart from Advani who left his Bharat Suraksha Yatra midway, Uddhav Thackeray, Sharad Pawar, Anil Ambani and senior corporate officials called to inquire about the condition of Mahajan.

According to the BJP office here, former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu and Sushma Swaraj were among those visiting Mahajan.

Meanwhile BJP workers held prayer meetings and held yagnas to pray for Mahajan's recovery.

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