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It’s An Emergency

It’s An Emergency

Those familiar with anniversaries would know when to present traditional gifts of pearl, ruby or gold. There is even a sapphire gift for 45th anniversary of marriage. But I have never heard anything about ‘43’, because it is not an exceptional number. However, that doesn’t seem to have deterred BJP and its Government in remembering an anniversary.

On the 43rd anniversary of imposition of Emergency, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tried to highlight the atrocities committed during Emergency. This annual exercise of non-Congress leaders, many of who had suffered during the Emergency excesses, had lost its meaning when the Congress ceased to be India’s numero uno party and after BJP blatantly declared in the late 1980s and early 1990s that the ‘Indian Constitution was secondary to the Hindu belief that Ram was born exactly at the spot where the Babri Masjid stood’.

The growth of the BJP after demolishing the Babri Masjid, days after its Chief Minister gave a solemn oath to the Supreme Court to protect the monument, had shifted the focus of all Indians who believed in constitutional democracy from ‘fascist Indira Congress’ to ‘fascist BJP’. These expressions may be exaggerations but have pointed in the general direction of the party that threatens the nation’s democratic system.

However, Modi believes that the new generation needs to be told about the ‘dangers of the Congress’. Is it not a wasteful exercise, given the fact that the Congress they know is of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh? They can be accused of encouraging dynastic rule, unable to show leadership skills or remaining silent when corruption charges made against UPA’s ministers but cannot be accused of any of the charges made against Indira Gandhi and her regime during Emergency. By the end of 19 months of Emergency, free elections were held and the Janata Party trounced Indira Gandhi and her party. Never in India’s history has a PM lost the seat s/he contested before or after that.

The Janata Party regime which came to power post-Emergency did its best to prosecute Indira Gandhi. But the findings of the Shah Commission could not reach fruition because RSS members of the Janata Party were not willing to give up their dual membership. It was found parties that merged into the Janata Party had only ‘anti-Indiraism’ in common and the Government collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions.

The people of India re-elected Indira Gandhi and her splintered party. Soon she publicly acknowledged that the Emergency was misused at different levels and apologised for the atrocities committed. She also highlighted the anarchy that the Opposition tried to unleash by asking the security forces not to obey the orders of the Union Government and produced letters of support to Emergency written by different leaders including RSS’ Deoras to Bharatiya Lok Dal’s Charan Singh.

The Emergency was about authoritarian dictatorship led by Indira Gandhi, her son Sanjay Gandhi and their cronies. It was about curbing press freedom and silencing Opposition leaders by jailing them. It was about subverting all institutions or making them fall in line. The Congress has been re-elected for five full-terms, aggregating 25 years, post-Emergency. No Opposition party has made a serious charge against any of the regimes led later by Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao or Manmohan Singh of subverting the Constitution of India.

However, ever since 2014, there have been accusations by human rights activists and Opposition parties on several occasions that the Modi regime has been trying to ‘subdue’ every democratic institution in the country and trying to impose ‘undeclared Emergency’.

These may be exaggerated claims by the Opposition. However, it seems to have made Modi conscious of his government’s actions. Is that why he rewound to 1975 in the year 2018? Or is he fed up of Nehru bashing?

Hidden Messages?

Arun Jaitley was dismissive of social media, in the beginning of this decade, when his leader L K Advani used to blog. He called social media the ‘preserve of the juvenile’ when his colleague Sushma Swaraj started using twitter regularly.

However, things seem to have changed for the erstwhile Minister of Finance now recuperating as Cabinet Minister without portfolio after a kidney transplant. He has been blogging almost daily in recent times, may be as a way to remain in news as he has been forced to keep away from the media due to health precautions.

Since there is nothing else he could think of, Jaitley did a trilogy of Facebook posts on the Emergency. He compared Indira Gandhi to Adolf Hitler for the atrocities committed during Emergency, something which his party’s Israeli friends would disapprove of.

However, some commentators are seeing a hidden message in Jaitley’s Facebook posts. Sample this in his second blog: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Vesting absolute power, the Government unleashed tyranny on every institution. The country witnessed the silence of graveyard... the Supreme Court capitulated… dissent became a sin and sycophancy the rule.”

There was more in his third blog: “The most disturbing observation of the Emergency was when the Central Government turned dictatorial, the entire system caved in. The Supreme Court became subservient, the media became sycophantic. Post Emergency Advani told the Delhi media ‘when asked to bend, you chose to crawl’.” Is Jaitley reminiscing something that happened 43 years ago or is he using it to subtly hint at what is happening now?

Political VP

Venkaiah Naidu is the second politician from the BJP to become India’s Vice-President. The post entails him the duty of presiding over the Rajya Sabha too.

However, Naidu seems least bothered about the etiquettes of the office he holds, which demands that he remain apolitical and make balanced observations only. On the 43rd anniversary of Emergency, Naidu too joined the BJP chorus in speaking against the Emergency and cautioning the media not to ‘loosely’ talk about Emergency these days. May be he should study how Bhairon Singh Shekhawat conducted himself after taking over the august office.

Troll Master

Sushma Swaraj was on a week’s tour of four European nations when her External Affairs Ministry transferred a regional passport officer in Lucknow for raising objections to issuing passports to an inter-faith couple. An objective view suggests that the officer may have had a point though he may have been rude to the applicants. On return, Swaraj to her surprise discovered that she was trolled by ‘fellow travellers’ of the Hindutva brigade for MEA’s decision. Not to be outdone, she retweeted some of the tweets, which were hostile and abusive to her. No surprise though that around 40 of the abusive trolls are followed by Swaraj’s boss Narendra Modi.

( abey.kay@gmail.com)

(Published on 02nd July 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 27)