Reacting to the controversy triggered by Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut's remark that iconic Congress leader Indira Gandhi used to meet gangster Karim Lala, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar on Friday said he shouldn't have made the comment. "We all think he should not have made the statement regarding Indira Gandhi. But he has withdrawn that statement. Hence I don't want to broach the issue (again)," Mr Pawar was quoted by news agency PTI as saying.
In an interview to the Lokmat Media group on Wednesday, Mr Raut had said Indira Gandhi used to meet Karim Lala, an underworld don active during the 1960s and 1970s in Mumbai.
After Congress's backlash, Mr Raut, a senior Sena leader who had played a pivotal role in the formation of the Sena-Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra, took back his words.
"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," Mr Raut said on Thursday.
Karim Lala was involved in smuggling, narcotics, gambling and extortion for over two decades in Mumbai.
Mr Pawar recalled how he had inadvertently shared the stage with another gangster of the time, Haji Mastan.
"I had gone to Mohammed Ali Road to campaign for the party in 1972. A rally was held. Next day I read in newspapers that Sharad Pawar and Haji Mastan sat next to each other at the rally. I did not even know who Haji Mastan was...but the news was published," he was quoted by news agency PTI as saying.
Maharashtra Minister and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray's son, Aaditya Thackeray, had said on Thursday that party founder Bal Thackeray had immense respect for former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and that Mr Raut's remark were taken out of context.
With inputs from PTI