Amid strong reaction from his one-time Socialist colleagues, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav on Thursday denied that he had ever supported the Emergency imposed in the country in 1975 by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, saying media had distorted his remark a day earlier.
"I have not approved of Emergency. I have said Emergency should not be used to crush democracy. It may be used only to tackle indiscipline," he told reporters.
He said he had never told the press conference at Varanasi on Wednesday that imposition of emergency was a right decision and he was a product of the Emergency.
He said in fact he had participated in the Lok Nayak Jaiprakash Narayan led revolution and the students agitation against the Emergency, undergoing several hardships.
Reacting to Yadav’s justification of the Emergency by describing it as a 'festival of discipline', the JD(U) alleged that it was nothing but a 'gimmick' by him to appease Sonia Gandhi.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said Yadav was "making a mockery of himself" with his statement that he had handed over the movement against the Emergency in 1975 to late socialist leader Jaya Prakash Narayan.
"There is no substance in Lalu's claim as the world knows the contribution and role of Jaya Prakash Narayanji, which led to the installation of the first non-Congress government at the Centre," Kumar said in Patna before emplaning for Uttar Pradesh for electioneering.
"People should not give significance to the utterances of Lalu which deserve nothing but condemnation," Kumar said.
JD spokesperson Shivanand Tiwari and its state unit president Rajiv Ranjan, alias Lalan Singh, said Yadav’s statement about 'handing over' leadership of the 1974 students' movement to Jaiprakash Narain was an open testimony of his 'narrow-mindedness'.
Yadav said on Thursday even the Congress and Indira Gandhi had also accepted that the imposition of Emergency was a mistake and this was the reason that the Janata Party had come to power. "Jaya Prakash had emerged the biggest leader of the country because of the anti-emergency agitation," he said.
Yadav, who was imprisoned under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA), said, "I, as a student union leader, had extended full support to Jayaprakash Narayan during the agitation against the Emergency," he said.
Yadav had on Wednesday defended the Emergency imposed by the then Indira Gandhi government, saying it was warranted by the prevailing political situation in the country.
JD(U) leaders said, "Yadav has forgotten that the people had once taught the late Indira Gandhi a lesson when she had imposed Emergency on the nation by defeating her in the elections. The country will never forget and forgive the excesses done on the nation by the then government and his victory in the 1977 elections was an outcome of it."