Raut retracts comments on Indira after Cong backlashUpdated: Jan 17, 2020 00:07 IST
A day after kicking up controversy by claiming that the late former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had met Karim Lala, a Pathan leader with links to the underworld, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut withdrew his statement following strong objections from Congress leaders.
In the hours that preceded the retraction, a political storm stirred as Congress slammed Raut, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) attacked the Congress over the statement, seeking clarification on links with the underworld.
Raut’s other remark, asking former MP Udayanraje Bhosale to show proof that he was a descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, also evoked criticism from Bhosale as well as the BJP. There were protests in Satara and some other areas.
Raut, who is the editor of Sena mouthpiece Saamana and a Rajya Sabha MP, on Thursday morning sought to clarify his comments.
He said they were “twisted” by those unaware of Mumbai’s history as he meant that the former PM met gangster Karim Lala in his capacity as a representative of the Pathan community.
Raut in an interview to a Marathi newspaper in Pune on Wednesday said: “There was a time when Chhota Shakeel, Dawood Ibrahim, Sharad Shetty used to decide who would be police commissioner of Mumbai and who would sit in Mantralaya. Indira Gandhi had gone to meet Karim Lala in south Mumbai.”
The statement by Raut stirred a political controversy with Congress leaders Milind Deora and Sanjay Nirupam slamming Raut.
Maharashtra Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat said that curtains have been drawn on the row as Raut has withdrawn the statement. He, however, said that such “derogatory” statements will not be tolerated and that Raut should be cautious while making any such statements.
Thorat said, “Raut should be careful while making any such statement in the future. We would not tolerate any such derogatory statement about our national leaders. Indiraji was a tall leader who had taken strict action against criminals in Mumbai and at the national level.” Thorat added, “Not only Karim Lala, but Indiraji ensured that dons like Haji Mastan and Yusuf Patel were put behind the bars.”
Another Congress leader and revenue minister Ashok Chavan said, “We are willing to pay any price, but won’t tolerate insult of our national leaders.”
Deora had tweeted: “Indiraji 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,” he tweeted.
Later on Thursday afternoon, Raut retracted his statement. “On many occasions when Indiraji was criticised, many Congress leaders have remained silent. On those occasions, I have come forward and advocated. If someone thinks that Indiraji’s image has been dented by what I said, or if someone’s sentiments were hurt, I withdraw my statement, he said.”
Former chief minister and leader of Opposition in legislative Assembly Devendra Fadnavis raised questions referring to the row over alleged Indira Gandhi-Karim Lala meetings. Fadnavis said, “Why Indira Gandhi used to come to Mumbai? Did Congress use underworld support and funding to win elections? Did Congress use muscle power in elections? If underworld played a key role in deciding the police commissioner of Mumbai and power centre at Mantralaya, does it not mean the ‘criminalisation of politics began during the Indira rule?” he said.
He questioned why Congress leaders like Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi were silent. He asked the Congress to clarify about the allegations and speak up if the Congress shielded the underworld dons who attacked Mumbai.
Following Raut’s withdrawal of comments, Thorat said the controversy should be over now.
Another controversy was kick-started by Raut, which has led to protests in parts of western Maharashtra. Protesting against Raut’s comments questioning UdayanRaje Bhosale’s family lineage, Satara, which is Bhosale’s constituency, observed a bandh on Thursday. Shiv Prathisthan, an outfit led by controversial right- wing leader Sambhaji Bhide, has called for a bandh in Sangli on Friday. .
Amid controversy over the book Aaj Ke Shivaji: Narendra Modi which was authored by a BJP functionary Jai Bhagwan Goyal, Bhosale on Tuesday said, “Every time, the descendent should be asked [when any controversy erupts]. When Shiv Sena was christened, when the word ‘Shiv’ was used, did you come and ask the descendants?” When asked about Bhosale’s comments, Raut retorted in the same interview to a Marathi daily: “He should bring proof that he is the descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.” BJP, in an attempt to get even with the Sena on the book controversy, attacked Raut. BJP’s Ram Kadam filed a police complaint in Ghatkopar and demanded Raut’s arrest. Kadam also staged a protest against Raut in Mumbai for questioning the lineage of Bhosale.