Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Thursday withdrew a remark about former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi after Congress leaders expressed displeasure, ANI reported. On Wednesday, Raut had claimed that Gandhi used to visit an underworld gangster in Mumbai.
“Our friends from Congress need not feel hurt,” Raut told ANI after the outrage. “If someone feels that my statement has hurt the image of Indira Gandhi ji or hurt someone’s feelings, I take back my statement.”
The Shiv Sena and the Congress are in an alliance in Maharashtra’s government. Maharashtra Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat said the party will not tolerate such remarks, and had expressed their disappointment to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
On Wednesday, Raut had said that gangsters like Dawood Ibrahim, Chhota Shakeel and Sharad Shetty had controlled Mumbai and adjoining areas in the past. “When Haji Mastan [a gangster] used to come to Mantralaya, the entire Mantralaya would come down to see him,” Raut had said. “Indira Gandhi used to come to meet [gangster] Karim Lala in Pydhonie.”
However, the remarks angered Congress leaders Milind Deora and Sanjay Nirupam. “Indira ji was a true patriot who never compromised on India’s national security,” Deora tweeted. “As former @INCMumbai President, I demand that @rautsanjay61 ji withdraw his ill-informed statement. Political leaders must show restraint before distorting the legacies of deceased Prime Ministers.”
Nirupam, who has been at loggerheads with Deora over the past year, also lashed out at Raut. He said that the Shiv Sena leader should stick to “entertaining Maharashtra with his light-hearted poetry”. “If he tries to defame Indira ji he will regret it later,” Nirupam said.
On Thursday, Raut said: “The respect that I have always shown towards Indira Gandhi, Pandit [Jawaharlal] Nehru, Rajiv Gandhi and the Gandhi family, despite being in Opposition, nobody has done. Whenever people have targeted Indira Gandhi, I have stood up for her.”
He said that during those times, many people used to meet Karim Lala, who was a Pathan from Afghanistan. “So, people used to meet him over the problems faced by the Pathan community,” he claimed.
After Raut backtracked, Balasaheb Thorat said the statement was wrong, but the matter had ended since he had retracted it. “He should be careful in future,” Thorat said.
The Shiv Sena had in November formed a government in Maharashtra with the support of the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party.