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PM ready to leave, shot rings out

New Delhi, May 3: A horserace punter was found bleeding from a gunshot to his chest just across the road from the Prime Minister’s residence this afternoon, triggering charges of a security lapse.

Kishore Lal Sehgal, 35, staggered out of his white Maruti Zen, screaming for help, before collapsing unconscious less than 50 metres from the barricades leading to 7 Race Course Road.

A splotch of blood flowed down the driver’s backrest, and a 9mm pistol, identical to police service revolvers, was lodged in the space between the two front seats. On the front passenger’s seat lay a bundle of thousand-rupee notes.

It was 2.45 pm and Manmohan Singh was to leave for Parliament any time, security officials said.

Singh eventually left home around 3.30. By then, the Special Protection Group (SPG) officer closest to the site of the incident had been transferred and the Prime Minister’s security was bracing itself for some tough questions.

The police claim that Sehgal, now recovering at hospital, has told them he tried to commit suicide because his wife was having an affair.

But fellow punters of the west Delhi businessman believe he may have been shot at — right under the noses of the Prime Minister’s security.

Sehgal, a regular to the Jaipur Polo Grounds and Race Course across the road from the Prime Minister’s residence for more than a decade, owed more than Rs 15 lakh to five other “players” who had lent him the money with “large interests”.

“For the past one month, Sehgal had not been coming to the race course because he couldn’t repay his debts. His lenders had been extremely upset, and they are the kind who might do anything over such a matter,” said Jogesh Rathore, a punter.

Around 2.30 pm today, there was a buzz that Sehgal would be passing by the race course, prompting the five lenders to rush out to try and intercept him, Rathore said. “These people have been keeping tabs on his movements.”

Rajnish Singh, a passer-by and eyewitness, said Sehgal’s Zen was travelling smoothly down Kemal Ataturk Road till two men on a red motorbike passed it.

“Suddenly, the car slowed down to a halt at the entrance to the parking lot (for visitors to the Prime Minister’s residence) and the man inside tottered out screaming for help.” Rajnish, however, said he didn’t hear a gunshot.

The police officially claimed the motorbike passing by was “incidental”, but sources said the betting angle was being examined.

“It’s a highly sensitive matter. If it stays in the media spotlight for long, officers in the Prime Minister’s security will lose their jobs. The probe into the betting angle — which could open a Pandora’s box — will be done quietly,” a senior officer said.

An 18-year-old man working at the polo grounds had come to Sehgal’s aid. “He shouted that someone had been shot. I came running, as did other SPG and CRPF officers from their pickets,” said sub-inspector R.K. Tripathi, in charge of the SPG control room at the Prime Minister’s residence at the time.

A police van took Sehgal to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. Officers said the Zen, DL-9CK 0730, may undergo forensic tests.

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