Senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid on Thursday mounted a defence of former PM Indira Gandhi's meeting with underworld figures saying that when "something has to be done in the national interest, then decisions are taken confidentially". He was responding to Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut's claim that Indira Gandhi used to meet with underworld don Karim Lala, a statement he later retracted. Khurshid on Thursday joined a group of students to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act at Delhi's Jamia Millia Islamia University where Republic spoke to him.
"In politics, many people say many different things. There's a record whenever a PM meets anyone from the underworld. When something has to be done in the national interest, then decisions are taken confidentially. Those who are criticising Indira Ji are shaming themselves," the former union minister told Republic TV.
When asked if Raut's statement would affect Congress' coalition government in Maharashtra with Shiv Sena, he responded, "I don't think it's important. If it just passing a historical footnote because someone knows something it'll pass as a historical footnote. Everything is not of current, immediate concern. They haven't made it an issue neither did anyone else."
Talking about the past influence of the underworld over Mumbai, Sanjay Raut claimed that the underworld decided who will be the city's commissioner and in the state secretariat. Moreover, he claimed that the entire secretariat would meet don Haji Mastan when he was in town. While BJP has backed Raut's remarks, the Congress has denied any such meeting between the former PM and Lala.
"They (underworld) used to decide who will be Mumbai's police commissioner and who will sit in Mantralaya (state secretariat)," Raut said. He added, "When (underworld don) Haji Mastan came to Mantralaya, the entire secretariat would come down to see him. Indira Gandhi used to meet Karim Lala in Pydhonie (in south Mumbai)".
Facing severe backlash from several top Congress leaders like Sanjay Nirupam, Milind Deora and Abhishek Singhvi over his controversial remark, Raut retracted his statement. Sources have stated that NCP Supremo Sharad Pawar had called Raut regarding his remarks.
He said, "Our friends in Congress need not be offended by this. I have defended Indira Gandhi many times when she was attacked while Congress kept mute. If someone thinks that my statement would dent the stature of Indira Ji or hurt the sentiment of someone, then I retract my statement".
Republic TV has accessed visuals of Indira Gandhi meeting Karim Lala.
Indira Gandhi's picture with Karim Lala out, Congress cites 'national interest' in its defence