MUMBAI: Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, on Thursday, withdrew his statement about late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s meetings with underworld don Karim Lala in Mumbai after there were strong reactions from within the Congress about the statement and also the BJP tried to pin Congress over the issue.
“If someone feels my statement has hurt Indira Gandhi’s image, or someone’s feelings, I take it back,” Raut said as he announced withdrawal of his statement which he had made during his interview to the Lokmat media group at its award function in Pune on Wednesday.
“Indira Gandhi used to meet Karim Lala in Pydhonie (area of South Mumbai),” Raut had said during while describing his experiences as a crime reporter in Mumbai in 1980s.
“In the past, I have taken her (Gandhi’s) side and argued with people who tried to malign her image. In such cases, some Congress leaders had remained silent,” Raut said today as he withdrew the statement.
Senior Congress leaders Milind Deora and Sanjay Nirupam took to tweeter on Thursday morning asking Raut 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,” Deora said in his tweets.
Another former Mumbai Congress chief Nirupam said Raut will “repent” if he continues a “false campaign” against Gandhi.
Maharashtra Pradesh Congress President Balasaheb Thorat expressed satisfaction that Raut withdrew his statement while adding that “any repetition of any such things in future won’t be tolerated by the Congress.”
The BJP, meanwhile, tried to pin Congress over Raut’s remarks asking “whether underworld fund Congress?”
“Sanjay Raut has made major expos about late PM Indira Gandhi. Why was she visiting Mumbai and whether the Congress was funded by the underworld of Mumbai? Was it the beginning of criminalization of politics? Was the Congress in need of ‘muscle power’ to win elections in those days?” former CM Devendra Fadnavis asked.
Fadnavis quoted Raut as saying that underworld dons Chhota Shakeel and Dawood Ibrahim used to “decide who would be the commissioner of police, as well as postings in ‘Mantralaya’ (state secretariat),” and said that Congress president Sonia Gandhi, former president Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi should be answering these questions.
“Did the Congress support those who attacked Mumbai? Why is the Congress not coming out with an explanation?” Fadnavis, who is now leader of opposition in state Assembly sought to know.
Karim Lala was one of the three top underworld dons of Mumbai for over two decades, from the sixties to the early eighties.
Sensing that the controversy is building over his remarks about meetings between Gandhi and Lala, Raut initially tried to say that his comments were “twisted” by those unaware of Mumbai's history.
“Karim Lala was leader of Pathan community, he led an organisation called ‘Pakhtun-e-Hind’. It was in this capacity of the leader of Pathan community that he met several top leaders including Indira Gandhi. However, those who do not (know) the history of Mumbai, are twisting my statement,” Raut said in a tweet on Thursday morning.
Raut’s statement came on the day when Maharashtra minister Aaditya Thackeray met Rahul Gandhi at his residence in New Delhi and two days after the Sena skipped a crucial opposition meet in Parliament complex.