Sanjay Raut withdraws controversial statement on Indira Gandhi's underworld connection
After his remarks on former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and underworld don Karim Lala sparked controversy, Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut on Thursday withdrew his statement. On Wednesday, Raut had claimed that Gandhi used to meet Lala in Mumbai. Raut also attempted to contextualize his statement on Thursday, before withdrawing it. Raut's remarks had irked the Congress party, Shiv Sena's new ally in Maharashtra.
Here's what Raut had said
Raut said in Pune on Wednesday, "There was a time when Dawood Ibrahim, Chhota Shakeel, Sharad Shetty would decide who will be Mumbai's police commissioner and who will sit in Mantralaya (state secretariat)." He then said that Gandhi used to meet Lala in South Mumbai's Pydhonie. Active in the underworld in the '60s and '70s, Lala was involved in smuggling, narcotics, gambling, and extortion.
Furious, Congress asked Raut to withdraw statement
The remarks irked Sena's ally Congress, with former Mumbai party chief Milind Deora asking Raut to withdraw the "ill-informed statement." "Indira ji was a true patriot who never compromised on India's national security," Deora tweeted, accusing Raut of "distorting the legacies of deceased Prime Ministers." Another Maharashtra Congress leader, Sanjay Nirupam, tweeted saying that Raut would have to "repent" for his comment.
'Congress was funded by the underworld of Mumbai?' asks Fadnavis
Feeding off of Raut's controversial remark, former Maharashtra Chief Minister and Leader of Opposition in the state assembly, Devendra Fadnavis said, "Raut has made a major exposé about late PM Indira Gandhi. Why was she visiting Mumbai and was the Congress funded by the underworld of Mumbai?" Asking if the Congress needed "muscle power" back in the day, Fadnavis questioned the party's "silence."
Raut later accused others of 'twisting his statement'
Raut on Thursday tried to explain his remark on Twitter. He said Lala headed an organization called 'Pakhtun-e-Hind' and was the leader of the Pathan community. Raut said Gandhi met him in this capacity, accusing his critics of not knowing the history and twisting his statement. He said, "I have never shied away from praising Indira Gandhi as an iron lady."
'If I hurt sentiments, I withdraw my statement'
Eventually, Raut withdrew his statement saying, "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."
Not the first spat between 'allies' Shiv Sena and Congress
This is not the first time allies Shiv Sena and Congress have bickered since forming the government in Maharashtra along with the NCP in November. Raut recently accused Congress leader Rahul Gandhi of "insulting a Hindutva icon" when the latter said, "My name is not Rahul Savarkar." The Sena also said it wasn't invited to a Congress-led Opposition meeting against the Citizenship Amendment Act.