Sanjay Raut withdraws Indira Gandhi underworld comment

Several in Congress express outrage, exposing cracks in tieup.

Mumbai: A day after Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut’s comments about former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi created a political furore, the Rajya Sabha MP retracted his statement saying, “If someone feels my statement hurt Indira Gandhi’s image, or someone’s feelings, I take it back.”

Mr Raut, whose party is part of the ruling alliance with the Congress and NCP, had claimed on Wednesday that former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi used to meet Karim Lala, an underworld don active during the 1960s and 1970s in Mumbai. Lala was one of the three top underworld dons of Mumbai for over two decades, from the Sixties to the early Eighties, the other two being Mastan Mirza alias Haji Mastan and Varadarajan Mudaliar.

Despite Mr Raut’s retraction, several Cong-ress leaders expressed outrage over his comments and the incident once again exposed the cracks in the newly appointed Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance government.

Terming Mr Raut’s comment as “wrong,” state Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat on Thursday said such remarks would not be tolerated.

Mr Thorat, the state revenue minister, cautioned all leaders 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. Mr Raut should also not make such a statement, which criticises great men. We have spoken to the chief minister on the issue,” Mr Thorat said.

The BJP was quick to latch on to the opportunity, with former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis wondering whether the Congress was “funded by Mumbai’s underworld.”

Union minister and senior BJP leader Prakash Javadekar described the ruling Shiv Sena-Congress-NCP alliance in Maharashtra as “opportunist,” and said that it is “built around the convenience of power and opportunism.”

Though in a series of tweets, Mr Thorat credited Indira Gandhi for breaking the back of underworld and tightening noose around gangsters like Karim Lala, Haji Mastan, Yusuf Patel and others, Mr Javadekar said that Congress leaders were often accused of helping Mumbai blasts accused Dawood Ibrahim flee the country.

Congress leaders Milind Deora and Sanjay Nirupam, too, asked Mr Raut to withdraw his “ill-informed” remarks. Mr Deora said politicians should refrain from “distorting” legacies of prime ministers who are no more.

Cabinet minister Aaditya Thackeray also said that Shiv Sena founder late Bal Thackeray had immense respect for Indira Gandhi and claimed party leader Sanjay Raut’s statements on the former Prime Minister were distorted.

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