Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut (right) says Indira Gandhi used to visit Karim Lala; Congress leader Milind Deora hits back saying she never compromised on India's national security.
A day after he claimed Indira Gandhi used to visit Mumbai underworld don Karim Lala, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut Thursday withdrew his statement. Several Congress leaders, including Milind Deora and Sanjay Nirupam, had hit out at Raut for "distorting the legacy" and carrying out a "false campaign" against the former prime minister.
During a function Wednesday, when Raut was asked about his days as a crime reporter in Mumbai, he said: "(Underworld don) Haji Mastan used to visit Mantralaya and was treated as an honoured guest. Indira Gandhi used to visit Karim Lala. Those were the days of the underworld dons. Today Mumbai is not like that.
"I don’t think she (Indira Gandhi) met him because he was an underworld don. Lala was a respected figure in the Pathan community. Therefore, Pathans across the country used to come and meet him. And so did leaders and prominent personalities,” Raut said. He even claimed Jawaharlal Nehru had met Karim Lala.
On Thursday, he first said leaders were "twisting" his statement, after which he withdrew it. "If someone feels my statement hurt Indira Gandhi's image, or someone's feelings, I take it back," he was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
Gangster Karim Lala. (Archive)
Congress leader Milind Deora argued that the late prime minister was "a true patriot who never compromised on India's national security", and demanded that Raut withdraw his "ill-informed" statement.
"Indira ji was a true patriot who never compromised on India’s national security. As former Congress president, I demand that Sanjay Raut ji withdraws his ill-informed statement," Deora said. "Political leaders must show restraint before distorting the legacies of deceased Prime Ministers."
Former Congress Mumbai chief Sanjay Nirupram also tweeted against Raut's statement. "It will be better if Shiv Sena's Mr Shayar (poet) focuses on entertaining Maharashtra by sharing light-hearted poetry of others. He will have to repent if he carries out false campaign against former Prime Minister Indira Gandhiji. He should withdraw the statement he gave about Indiraji yesterday," he said.
Karim Lala, born as Abdul Karim Sher Khan in Afghanistan's Kunar province, was a notorious underworld don who operated liquor dens, gambling and extortion rackets from the sixties to the early eighties. He was the leader of what was called the 'Pathan Gang'.