20 unanswered questions in l’affaire Padmapriya

1) Padmapriya Bhat, the wife of Udupi BJP MLA Raghupati Bhat, went missing on June 10 (June 11 according to some other reports). Why did it take three days for Bhat to report her disappearance? From the video above, it appears he told the police she was missing only when they contacted him about the abandoned car. Did he already know where she had gone, and why?

2) The distance from Udupi to Mulki is 32 km. The car was found 12 km from her parents’ place. Even if her husband or her family did not notice her disappearance, how come the abandoned car was not noticed, or reported to the police for three days? How come Bhat’s children were staying with his parents in Udupi?

3) Padmapriya’s mother’s house was just 32 km away from Udupi. She had a car and she knew how to drive. Why would she take Bhat’s permission to go there for a pooja, as Bhat claims?

4) Bhat claims the land line of his in-laws was dead, which is why he couldn’t reach them even when Padmapriya was not answering her mobile phone. Was the dead landline reported to the telephone authorities? If so, when?

5) On what basis did home minister V.S. Acharya claim in a newspaper interview it was a “half-kidnap”? And what exactly is a “half-kidnap”?

6) If there was a compelling reason for Padmapriya to take her life so suddenly, why would she do it in faraway Delhi, and in an apartment she had rented just three days ago, so far away from her parents and her children? Why would she not do it in Udupi or someplace close?

7) If Padmapriya wanted to flee to Delhi to stay away from her husband or to start a new life, why would she have left the cash she was carrying (estimates range from Rs 8,000 to Rs 70,000) and jewellery in the abandoned car?

8) Having moved to Delhi, was she shamed or scared into taking her life after her whereabouts had been detected by the police and the reasons were being speculated upon by television channels? Who is the “Sunil” to whom she made her last telephone call, according to television reports?

9) If Raghupati Bhat and Padmapriya had a strained relationship and were on the verge of divorce, how come neither her father nor her brothers seemed to catch any whiff of it, especially when news reports suggest that a divorce was in the offing for quite some time?

10) If Bhat and PP had a strained relationship, as is being alleged, and were only carrying on the charade of living together so as not to hamper Bhat’s electoral chances, just what changed after his victory that made it impossible for the couple to separate amicably?

11) Unnamed police officials claimed on June 14 that PP was in a resort in Malur (Kolar) and that she would be brought to Udupi on June 15. Home minister V.S. Acharya was “all right she was alive and she would be re-united with her family in matter of hours”. Was she really in Malur or was it a red herring thrown by the police to keep the media off the tracks and to buy time without indicating to Padmapriya that they knew where she was? How come Malur police did not know PP was in their jurisdiction while Mangalore police did?

12) Home minister Acharya claims that “Our police had established that she was in Delhi three days ago“. If true, did the Karnataka government make any effort to keep a watch on her movements for three days? Acharya says Karnataka police was in Delhi by 10.30 am. Why did it take them four hours to get in?

13) Did Padmapriya return to Bangalore from Delhi with Raghupati Bhat’s close aide Atul Kumar on June 12, and was she taken back to Delhi from Malur on Saturday evening or Sunday morning after the home minister’s statement?

14) On what basis does home minister Acharya, a trained medical doctor, claim that Padmapriya was suffering from “temporary depression”? Did he speak with her after she went missing and before she killed herself? Did trained psychologists try to engage her and get her out of her “temporary depression”?

15) If Padmapriya went to Delhi/Malur/Goa of her own volition to lead a new life, why were broken green bangles suggesting use of force found in the abandoned car?

16) Who is Prem in whose name a Maruti Wagon R car (DL 8, CD 6949) had been bought from Manjit Motors in Delhi on June 12, just a day after she had reached Delhi? If Padmapriya went missing on June 10/11, can a car be booked, bought, delivered and registered in just 24 hours? Or was it booked much earlier?

17) TV9 reports, quoting security records, that Atul Kumar, the close aide of Raghupati Bhat, had visited the Delhi apartment earlier in the month. So was her decision to flee Udupi and stay in Delhi planned in advance? Had she gone missing earlier than is being claimed?

18) If Padmapriya had intended to settle down in Delhi for good, as evidenced by the renting of a three-bedroom, fully-furnished apartment and the purchase of a new car, why would she suddenly decide to kill herself? Who paid the advance deposit for the apartment?

19) B.S. Yediyurappa, M.P. Renukacharya, and now Raghupati Bhat. Why are so many BJP leaders increasingly finding it so difficult to handle their personal lives? Or are Congress leaders more adept at hiding their warts because of “60 years of experience”?

20) And this bonus question: in 21st century India, is a strained marriage such a terrible thing and the possibility of divorce such an anathema for a politician that death is the only way out?