Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Wednesday kicked up a controversy over his remarks that former prime minister Indira Gandhi used to meet underworld don, Karim Lala.

“There was a time when Dawood Ibrahim, Chhota Shakeel, Sharad Shetty used to decide who would be Police Commissioner of Mumbai and who would sit in ‘Mantralaya’. Indira Gandhi used to go and meet Karim Lala. We have seen that underworld, now it’s just ‘chillar’,” he had said in a private TV channel talk show in Pune.

Following his controversial statement, several Congress leaders expressed their displeasure with former Mumbai city chiefs taking strong objections to Raut’s utterances.

“Those who indulge in such fake propaganda about former PM Indira Gandhi will have to repent. He must withdraw his statements immediately,” ex-Mumbai Congress president and former MP Sanjay Nirupam said on Thursday.

“Indiraji was a true patriot who never compromised on India’s national security. I demand that Sanjay Raut withdraw his ill-informed statement. Political leaders must show restraint before distorting the legacies of deceased PMs,” said former city party chief and ex-union minister Milind Deora.

In the wake of criticisms from the ruling state ally, Raut on Thursday clarified that he has all respect for the former prime minister and his remarks were distorted.

“The respect that I have always shown towards Indira Gandhi, Pandit Nehru, Rajiv Gandhi and the Gandhi family, despite being in opposition, nobody has done it. Whenever people have targeted Indira Gandhi, I have stood up for her,” he said.

“Kareem Lala was leader of Pathan community, he led an organisation called ‘Pakhtun-e-Hind’. It was in this capacity of the leader of Pathan community that he met several top leaders including Indira Gandhi. However, those who do not know the history of Mumbai, are twisting my statement. I have never shied away from praising Indira Gandhi as an iron lady who took decisions with iron fist. Surprisingly, those who do not history of Indiraji are shouting on top of the voice (sic),” Raut clarified in a tweet by tagging Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Rajeev Satav.

He further said that he takes back his statement if it has hurt the image of Indira Gandhi or the party feelings.

“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,” the Shiv Sena MP told reporters.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Congress minister Balasaheb Thorat said that although Raut’s statement on Indira Gandhi is wrong, the matter has ended as the Shiv Sena leader has withdrawn his remarks.

Earlier on Thursday, Maharashtra’s Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis demanded to know whether the underworld mafia was financing the Congress and sought a clarification from its leaders like Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi.

Referring to Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut’s claim that Indira Gandhi used to meet mafia don Karim Lala and others, Fadnavis said in view of these serious revelations, now the Congress must bare its chest on the issue.

This comes as dissatisfaction has been brewing among the allies of Shiv Sena in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra over Cabinet berths.

The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government led by Uddhav Thackeray was formed on November 28.

The Shiv Sena had joined hands with the Congress and NCP, its traditional adversaries, after its alliance with the BJP collapsed over the issue of sharing the chief ministerial post.