Senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Thursday retracted his statement linking former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to yesteryear don Karim Lala, saying political bigwigs used to visit mafia dons at that time.
Lala was an underworld don and operated in narcotics, gambling, smuggling, and extortion rackets in Mumbai for over two decades. He died in 2002 at the age of 90. His remarks sparked controversy with several Congress leaders pounding on Sena leader and asking him to withdraw his statement.
Shiv Sena currently rules Maharashtra in an alliance with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
“Our friends from Congress need not feel hurt. If someone feels that my statement has hurt the image of Indira Gandhi ji or hurt someone’s feelings, I take back my statement,” Raut said.
The BJP mocked the Shiv Sena over its U-turn. In a tweet quoting Raut’s retraction, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said, “Sonia Sena’s mouthpiece retracts the statement on Indira Gandhi. But never on their behest did any Congress man ever withdrew the abuses that they hurled on Veer Savarkar!!”
Commenting on the controversy, Maharashtra Congress chief and state minister Balasaheb Thorat said, “His statement was wrong but he has retracted it so matter ends. He should be careful in future. We had made him (Uddhav Thackeray) aware of this.”
Speaking at a function in Mumbai on Wednesday, Raut had said, “There was a time when Dawood Ibrahim, Chhota Shakeel, Sharad Shetty used to decide who would be Police Commissioner of Mumbai and who would sit in the ‘Mantralaya’. Indira Gandhi used to go and meet Karim Lala. We’ve seen that underworld, now it’s just chillar.”
Raut also said that the gangsters used to have control over the metropolis and adjoining areas. “Those were the days of the underworld. Now there is nothing like that,” he had said.
His statement had created quite a furore among Congress leaders who asked him to withdraw his “ill-informed” remarks.
“Indira ji was a true patriot who never compromised on India’s national security. As former @INCMumbai President, I demand that @rautsanjay61 ji withdraws his ill-informed statement. Political leaders must show restraint before distorting the legacies of deceased Prime Ministers,” former Union Minister Milind Deora tweeted.
Another ex-Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam also asked the Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP to withdraw the remarks.
“It will be better if Shiv Sena’s Mr Shayar (poet) focuses on entertaining Maharashtra by sharing light-hearted poetry of others. He will have to repent if he carries out false campaign against former Prime Minister Indira Gandhiji. He should withdraw the statement he gave about Indiraji yesterday,” Nirupam tweeted in Hindi.
Nirupam’s jibe at “Mr Shayar” was aimed at Sanjay Raut’s regular poetic posts.