Finance minister Arun Jaitley hit out at the Congress on Friday for imposing the Emergency that endangered people’s right to life and liberty and swept aside charges of rising intolerance in the country.
Speaking on the second day of Parliament’s winter session, Jaitley said the biggest challenge before the country was the suspension of Article 21 of the Constitution -- the provision that gave people the right to life and liberty -- a reference to the Emergency imposed by then Congress prime minister Indira Gandhi.
“Today if someone comes on TV and gives an irresponsible statement, it is called intolerance. Earlier, people’s life were being taken away illegally -- of course there’s no comparison, it’s like comparing a mountain to a molehill,” Jaitley said, triggering uproar in the Upper House.
“After the Emergency, Article 21 was made non-suspendable, which means we are far more safe today. People who supported the Emergency are now talking about constitutionality.”
Jaitley also appeared to compare Indira to German dictator Adolf Hitler but didn’t name her, saying constitutional provisions have often been used to subvert constitutions.
He said an aide of Hitler once said, “Hitler is Germany and Germany is Hitler” -- a possible reference to an Assam Congress leader proclaiming, “India is Indira and Indira is India”.
“In 1930s Germany, emergency was imposed, opposition leaders detained, newspapers censored, a 25-point economic programme was brought in. What happened subsequently in other parts of the world, Germans never claimed copyright,” the finance minister said.
The government has been determined to push through its reform agenda, including the landmark goods and services tax bill, in the month-long session but a belligerent Opposition is planning to corner the ruling coalition on a number of issues, including price rise and the snowballing debate over intolerance.
The Congress has been at the forefront of the campaign against the government, accusing BJP leaders of backing fringe elements driving a wedge between communities.
Several thinkers, writers, scientists and historians have returned top government awards and top Bollywood actors such as Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan have spoken out against a barrage of communal violence, triggering a wave of stinging criticism from the BJP