He is out on ‘furlough’ (a legal term for short period of absence from jail) and not on parole as he corrects you the moment you meet him. It’s been three years since Pravin Mahajan shot dead his brother, BJP leader Pramod Mahajan, at the latter’s south Mumbai residence. Out on a 14-day leave from jail on the pretext of being with his sick wife, Pravin — sitting in his Thane residence which was ironically bought by Pramod — talked of life in the shadow of his elder brother and the estrangement with his family. He also gave a glimpse into Pramod’s personal life until that fateful morning of April 22, 2006. There have been whispers about what prompted Pravin to get up one day and kill the man who brought him up like a son, but Pravin, who now maintains that it was an unfortunate accident, is using the furlough to defend himself and come clean. In an extensive conversation with Tehelka Correspondent Rana Ayyub, Pravin gave a rare insight into the life of the Mahajan family. Excerpts:
You are out of jail on furlough because your wife is supposedly ill. Are you actually using this period to defend yourself?
See, every person in this world has a right to be defended. I have been convicted and I have appealed against my conviction in the High Court and am willing to go in the Supreme Court too. Nobody has seen me shooting as is being suggested. My bhabhi (sister-in-law), was not even present in the house when the incident took place. It was an accident. I did not shoot at him. It was an automatic weapon which was used in the accident. I would maintain though that the accident could have been avoided. Pramod could have avoided that accident.
How? What was the trigger for the accident? Why did you go there with a gun in your hand?
It was not just one sudden thing. It was a build up or a culmination of a long period of agony that was taking place. Rekha Mahajan, my bhabhi who has been responsible for keeping the family together, knows everything. She was not a blood relation but she confided in me more than anybody else. It was she who first told me about Pramod’s philandering ways which broke her. Nobody talks of that. Tell me something, when Pramod had two flats already why did he have to stay in somebody else’s house. They were staying separately. When the court asked Rekha Mahajan as to who did Pramod love the most, she pointed her finger at me but there was a question in her eyes. She knew the truth.
Do you regret what happened that morning?
The incident that happened that night was regrettable. But it was an accident. It all happened in just 15 minutes.
How do you remember Pramod Mahajan?
As the most intelligent and astute man ever. He used to tell me that he was not loyal to anybody, neither Atalji nor Advaniji. He was loyal to just himself and these two men spoiled him. They encouraged him, his entire five-star culture that he brought to the party, his rivalry with Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj. There cannot be another Pramod Mahajan and I know that being his brother. But somehow all this got into his head. He was upset when Rajnath Singh was made the party president in his place. His opinion was that if people like Rajnath and Venkaiah Naidu could not do anything for the region that they belonged, how could they work on a national level and take the party to new heights.
Do you think the BJP has suffered in Pramod’s absence? Would he have made a difference to the decline in the BJP today?
If he could, Pramod would have made a difference to Maharashtra elections. The party lost the elections despite his rapport with the Shiv Sena and his understanding of state poltics. But having said that, I know that Pramod meant a lot for the BJP. Also he was the guy who raised funds from the corporates. From where he got the funds and how much of it was given to the party was also well known. The higher-ups in the party were using him to get in big money knowing fully well that the money would not be used for party purposes but for their own purpose. I would say that Delhi spoiled him. It made him an arrogant man who believed he was capable of anything. He was also increasingly becoming insecure and anger became a part of his nature.
Did Pramod speak to you about the funds? Which higher-ups are you talking about?
Everyone knows who they are. And everyone knew money was coming. Look at the expose on the Reliance shares that came about. He knew that an insider from the Ambani family had leaked the information to the press. So the first thing that he did was call me as I was given a job at Reliance by him. He told me that if anyone was to ask any question about me I was to remain mum. Everyone knew that he had stakes in Reliance but it was something that was brought out by a member of the Ambani family. He was upset at being ousted from the Cabinet by the party for which he did a lot, for whose people he managed to get a lot.
He was for some reason always scared that I would speak the truth. He suspected me although he loved me a lot. During the Tehelka expose’ of Bangaru Laxman, he said to me “Listen, I am not involved in this but people in my party would want to drag me in this, so don’t open your mouth about it all.” He knew that if there was anybody who could question him in the family it was me.
Do you feel you owe him everything?
Yes, I do. Why should I lie about it. He even bought this house for me. When he shifted to Mumbai with his family, I was the only brother he got along with him. I am a nobody, but he supported me financially and looked after my family. He was the one who got me married to my wife Sarangi. He would call me when in times of crisis and speak to me
And what did he expect in return?
He wanted the favours returned. He wanted me to take his side. He wanted me to do his bidding without asking questions. He would tell me “You are my brother, why do you support Rekha.” I couldn’t see my bhabhi breaking like that. His ways were affecting the family. The two children knew what was going on, even at a young age. Poor Poonam and Rahul witnessed the drama in the family since they were kids. I pity them. I feel bad for Rahul, but it was all coming. Pramod could also see that. He could have got them jobs as pilots without having basic education but that was not enough. Rahul is doing exactly what his father did. What the father practiced was there for the son to see.
Was your confronting Pramod over his philandering ways, his separation from his wife as you call it, which prompted you to pick up the gun?
Rekha bhabhi would be able to answer that. I was the only person she confided in. She called me years ago when she first got a whiff of Pramod’s womanising ways. Poonam was young then. She broke down and asked me to come to their residence and solve the problem. I tried talking to Pramod but it was of no use.
Today, are the other members in the family in touch?
No, they are not. My wife and my two kids are my support system. They have stood by me through thick and thin. But I still feel sympathetic to Rekha bhabhi and the two kids. The kids went in the wrong direction too. Pramod would have never let his children get into politics. He knew that Rahul was going in the wrong direction but he had no time from his own life. The family has to deal with a lot of skeletons. A lot of questions have remained unanswered. Just like Vivek Maitra’s (Pramod Mahajan’s secretary) death due to drug overdose just months after Pramod’s death. He was one man who knew the truth. Today nobody knows what had transpired.
Do you still go back to that incident?Remember it?
I do remember it but not as an isolated incident. I remember my life as a whole. And this incident, a culmination of a lot of incidents in the Mahajan family is just a part of the memory.
How does it feel now to leave home in a couple of days and then spend
the rest of your life in jail?
I have made no plans. I will write I believe. Fight my case in the Supreme Court. I am only bothered about my family. They have gone through hell, paid the heaviest price of it all. They are the only people who do not ask me questions and have faith in what I do and what I did.