Lala was an Afghan-born underworld gangster whose illegal business spread from interests in liquor trade to gambling and extortion rackets in Mumbai (then Bombay)
Another day, another statement by a ruling party member in Maharashtra has created a controversy in the state's political circles.
This time around, it is Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut who, during a programme on January 15, said that former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi used to meet underworld don Karim Lala in Mumbai.
Raut's statement has ruffled feathers in the political corridors of the state, particularly those of the Maha Vikas Aghadi, formed by the unlikely coming together of the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress.
The reaction from the Congress was along expected lines— the party's state unit chief Balasaheb Thorat saying Raut should avoid making such "irresponsible and irrelevant" statements in the future.
But who was Karim Lala, the man who has come back to haunt the Maha Vikas Aghadi?
Lala was an Afghan-born underworld gangster, whose illegal business spread from interests in liquor trade to gambling and extortion rackets in Mumbai (then Bombay).
Reports from the 70's and 80's, and then from 2002, when Lala died, suggest that the underworld mafiosi lived a life that was more or less devoid of the grandeur that other gangsters of that era tended to have around them.
While he had started his life as a worker, he joined a gang of Pathans, working as illegal recovery agents, and then worked his way up.
"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 had later said.Lala dominated the smuggling scene from 1971-74, but then reportedly took a backseat and handed over the reins of his business to his nephew, Samad Khan, who, in turn, was killed by rival Dawood Ibrahim gang in 1984.Get access to India's fastest growing financial subscriptions service Moneycontrol Pro for as little as Rs 599 for first year. Use the code "GETPRO". Moneycontrol Pro offers you all the information you need for wealth creation including actionable investment ideas, independent research and insights & analysis For more information, check out the Moneycontrol website or mobile app.