A leader of a right wing Hindu outfit was shot dead on Sunday while he was out on a morning walk, barely a couple of kilometres away from the high-security Uttar Pradesh legislature complex in the heart of the state capital.
Saffron-clad Ranjeet Bachchan, 40, who had founded the Vishwa Hindu Mahasabha, was shot in the head and his cousin Aditya Srivastava injured in the attack by an unidentified assailant who also snatched their mobile phones, according to Joint Commissioner of Police Naveen Arora.
The attacker had covered himself in a shawl and was on foot, police said quoting eyewitnesses.
Four police personnel, including a sub-inspector, were suspended for alleged laxity and a case has been registered at Hazratganj police station here in connection with the incident which occurred near the Collectorate building, days after Lucknow came under the police commissioner system with an aim to improve law and order.
Later, police released CCTV footage showing a suspect and announced a cash reward of Rs 50,000 for providing information, a senior official said.
According to Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha president Swami Chakrapani, Bachchan was also the working president of the outfit's Uttar Pradesh unit.
Chakrapani condemned the murder and hit out at Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
The incident comes nearly four months after the leader of a little known Hindu Samaj Party was killed in Lucknow.
On October 18, Kamlesh Tiwari (45), who was earlier associated with a faction of the Hindu Mahasabha, was found murdered at his home in the congested Naka Hindola area of the city.
"Such incidents throw a challenge to UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. He should weigh his options as to whether election campaigning in other states is more important or improving the law and order of the state," Chakrapani said.
Arora said as per initial information, Bachchan and his wife Kalindi Sharma Bachchan were not in a cordial relationship and a case in this regard was registered in Gorakhpur.
"This angle is also being looked into," he said.
He said Bachchan was associated with the Samajwadi Party previously and took part in cycle rallies of the party between 2002-09.
Arora said they are examining CCTV footage from the area and checking the background of the people with whom Bachchan had any dispute.
"As many as eight teams of the crime branch are working to solve the case," he said.
In the complaint registered with the police, Aditya Srivastava said:"I along with Ranjeet went out for a morning walk. At around 6 am, on the road outside Globe Park, an unknown person who had wrapped a shawl came from a behind, and asked us to hand over our mobile phones.
"After this, the unknown person fired at Ranjeet, and also fired at me on my left arm. I ran from the spot in order to save my life."
Police said Bachchan died on the spot while Srivastava suffered bullet injuries on his left hand.
Asked about the incident, Police Commissioner of Lucknow Sujit Pandey said, "The incident took place on the road outside the Globe Park, and it falls on the border of Hazratganj and Kaisarbagh police stations. In all four cops, including one sub-inspector, have been suspended for laxity."
On January 15, IPS officer Pandey took charge as the first police commissioner of Lucknow after the commissionerate system of policing was implemented in the state.
The system gives more powers, including magisterial powers, to police officers and is aimed at better and effective policing.
A senior police official requesting anonymity said that they are looking into family reasons behind the incident.
"The deceased (Bachchan) had two wives. He was living with his first wife (Kalindi Sharma Bachchan) and had a three-year-old daughter from the second wife. His sister-in-law had filed a rape case against him in 2017," the official said.
Meanwhile, an aide of Bachchan said that he used to go on morning walk everyday and had no enmity with anyone.
Chakrapani said Bachchan had spoken to him last month.
"Almost 15 days ago, I got a call from him saying that he wants to meet me. He had expressed apprehensions saying that 'Swamiji, we are working for Hindutva, but there are dangers'," he said
Bachchan was from Gorakhpur, Chakrapani said.