The incident took place around 2 am on the Bhuj-Dadar Express train when Bhanushali (53) was returning to Ahmedabad from Bhuj town of Kutch district in Gujarat, police said.
Bhanushali had stepped down from the post of Gujarat BJP's vice president in July last year after a woman accused him of rape. However, the Gujarat High Court had quashed the case in August 2018 after the woman withdrew the complaint.
Director General of Police (CID) Ashish Bhatia told reporters that, as per preliminary probe, Bhanushali was apparently shot dead between Gandhidham and Samakhiyali in the Kutch district during early hours.
Bhanushali, who was travelling in a AC First Class coupe of the train, was shot on his forehead and chest, said Bhatia.
"Apart from Bhanushali, there was another passenger in that 1st class coupe. This passenger was alloted the upper berth. He told us that when he came back to the coupe from the toilet, he saw Bhanushali lying in a pool of blood," Bhatia informed.
Bhatia said no one had seen the assailants as there were only two passengers in the coupe, adding that other passengers and the coach attendant would be questioned for leads.
"Forensic experts have recovered two empty bullet cases and three live 7.65 mm calibre cartridges. It shows the bullets were fired at close range from a country-made pistol," said Bhatia.
He said the state CID-Crime and Railway police had formed a seven member team, headed by DIG (CID) Gautam Parmar, to probe the case.
Meanwhile, Bhanushali's wife Madhuben told reporters, "Chhabil Patel must have given contract to kill my husband. He has now fled the country."
"When Patel lost the election in the last Assembly polls, he circulated a video in which he can be heard saying that he will shoot his political rivals. Patel is behind the murder of my brother," Bhanushali's brother Shambhu alleged.
Patel could not be contacted as his cellphone was switched off and he is reportedly out of the country at present.
He was defeated by Patel, at the time in the Congress, in 2012. Within two years, Patel switched sides and joined the BJP but lost the bypoll for the seat in 2014.
In the 2017 Assembly polls, the party had chosen Patel over Bhanushali for Abdasa seat. However, Patel lost to a Congress candidate.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)