Following the controversial remarks of its leader Sanjay Raut on Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and former prime minister Indira Gandhi, the Shiv Sena on Friday (January 17) said it had never used Shivaji’s or Gandhi’s name for political gain.
The party made certain observations in an editorial in its mouthpiece Saamana about gangster Karam Lala, saying he once headed an organisation of the Pathan community and drew inspiration from Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, who is also called Frontier Gandhi.
Raut recently sparked a row when he while addressing an event suggested that Indira Gandhi had links with underworld don Karim Lala. At the same event he asked BJP leader Udayanraje Bhosale, the 13th descendant of Shivaji, to prove his descent, asserting that no one has ownership rights over the Maratha king.
While his statement against Gandhi was condemned by the Congress, his challenge to Bhosale triggered bandhs at Satara, Ghatkopar, Solapur and Ahmednagar and Sangli. Sundar Shekhar, son of notorious gangster Haji Mastan also told media that Lal did have links with Gandhi.
The recent editorial in Saamna said that the party had always respected Indira Gandhi, who it said, had a towering and strong personality. “Whenever there were attempts to malign her image, the Shiv Sena acted as a shield. She was a powerful leader who split Pakistan and avenged Partition,” the Marathi daily said. The paper expressed surprise that those who want to erase Gandhi’s memories permanently are worried about her image now.
Although Raut, the executive editor of Saamna withdrew his statement on Gandhi after facing public backlash, the opposition BJP latched on his comment to embarrass the Congress. Former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis asked whether the party was “funded by Mumbai’s underworld” and if (at that time) it was the beginning of “criminalisation of politics” in the state, and if the Congress “supported” those who attacked Mumbai.
The editorial said, when Indira Gandhi was prime minister, whom she met cannot be an issue of controversy. “As prime minister, one has to hold talks even with separatists. Such discussions have taken place in recent times,” it stated.
Hitting out at its former ally, the Sena said, “Since the BJP doesn’t have any work now, it is busy digging out many issues. One can never say who can meet whom in politics. If that wasn’t so, one would not have formed government with Mehbooba Mufti who is accused of being soft on separatists.”
The BJP had formed government with Mehbooba Mufti’s party PDP in Jammu and Kashmir, but it collapsed midway. During the 1960s, Lala headed an organisation to resolve issues concerning Pathans the world over, the editorial said. Frontier Gandhi, as Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan was known, was Lala’s inspiration. Frontier Gandhi was of the view that India should not be partitioned on the basis of religion.
“Several youths from the Pathan community lived in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India and endeavoured to have their own space. Karim Lala was one of them. “Lala’s office in Musafir Khana in Mumbai had his photographs with prominent world leaders. That office no longer exists,” it said.
Lala had good relations with all and the underworld in Mumbai had not come into existence then, the daily said.
(With inputs from agencies)