After row, Raut withdraws remark about ex-PM meeting gangster
Mumbai: After criticism from ally Congress, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Thursday withdrew his controversial remarks wherein he claimed that former prime minister Indira Gandhi met gangster Karim Lala in Mumbai.
However, before taking back his comments, Raut said his words were "twisted" by those unaware of Mumbai's history as he meant that Gandhi met Karim Lala in his capacity as representative of the Pathan community.
Later, after Congress leaders Milind Deora and Sanjay Nirupam hit out at Raut over his "ill-informed" remarks, the Sena leader withdrew it.
"If someone feels my statement hurt Indira Gandhi's image, or someone's feelings, I take it back," said Raut, whose party is part of the ruling alliance with the Congress and NCP in Maharashtra.
"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," the Rajya Sabha member said.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat on Thursday said such remarks will not be tolerated, and conveyed their disappointment to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
The state revenue minister cautioned all leaders, including Raut, against making remarks criticising great leaders.
"It, indeed, was a wrong statement and we will not tolerate such a statement. Nobody should make such a statement. Raut should also not make such a statement which criticises great men," Thorat told reporters here.
"We are disappointed with the statement. We have spoken to the chief minister on the issue," he added.
During an interview to the Lokmat media group at its award function in Pune on Wednesday, Raut claimed, "When (underworld don) Haji Mastan came to Mantralaya, the entire secretariat would come down to see him. Indira Gandhi used to meet Karim Lala in Pydhonie (in south Mumbai)."
He also said that "they (underworld) used to decide who will be Mumbai's police commissioner and who will sit in Mantralaya".
Karim Lala was one of the three top underworld dons of Mumbai for over two decades, from the sixties to early eighties, the other two being Mastan Mirza alias Haji Mastan and Varadarajan Mudaliar.
Latching onto the controversy, former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis sought an explanation from the Congress leadership over Raut's comments and wondered whether the Congress was "funded by Mumbai's underworld".
The BJP leader also questioned if (at that time) it was the beginning of "criminalisation of politics" in the state, and if the Congress "supported" those who attacked Mumbai.
Was the Congress in need of "muscle power" to win elections in those days? he asked.