‘Phoney’ Emergency turned democracy into constitutional dictatorship: Arun Jaitley
In a scathing attack on former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on whose watch the Emergency was declared in the country 43 years ago (on 25 June 1975), senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and Union Minister Arun Jaitley said on Sunday that she “preferred popular slogans over sound and sustainable policies”.
Her government, “with a huge electoral mandate at the Centre and the states, continued in the same economic directions which she had experimented in the late 1960’s,” Jaitley said in a blog.
Recalling the events that led to the Emergency, a phase dubbed as the darkest period of Indian democracy, Jaitley, said the then Prime Minister who had no intention of changing the “disastrous economy path” on which her government had embarked, had begun to lose the sympathy of the intelligentsia.
“It was a phoney emergency on account of proclaimed policy that Indira Gandhi was indispensable to India and all contrarian voices had to be crushed. The constitutional provisions were used to turn democracy into a constitutional dictatorship”, he wrote in the first part of of what he said was a three-part series titled ‘The Emergency revisited’.
Jaitley, then a student leader led protests against the imposition of Emergency, and was arrested under the draconian Maintenance of Internal Security Act.
The BJP’s predecessor, the Jana Sangh, was among the main opponents of the Emergency that was marked by media censorship and arrests of political leaders.
Making a reference to the political churning, that saw the emergence of socialist leaders such as Jaiprakash Narain, popularly known as JP who challenged the authoritarian administration, Jaitley said the years 1971 and 1972 were high points in the political career of Gandhi who challenged the senior leaders of her own party and a grand alliance of opposition party.
Soon after the liberation of Bangladesh (in 1971) that was aided by India under Gandhi, the country faltered in drafting economic policies, the BJP leader said.
“She (Gandhi) botched up the nationalisation of wheat trade (it was subsequently reversed) to tackle unmanageable inflation. It led to greater inflation. This led to social and trade union unrest where large number of man-days were lost. The first oil shock had already had an adverse impact.
Due to its tilt towards Pakistan, the United States suspended a lot of aid to India. Inflation in 1974 touched a staggering 20.2% and reached 25.2% in 1975,” he wrote.
While Jaitley referred to the large scale unemployment, unprecedented price rise, low investment in economy and tussle with judiciary during the months preceding Emergency as contributing factors to the party losing public support (the Congress lost the 1977 general election), political analyst Shirish Kashikar said the Emergency also paved the way for instability within the Congress.
“Emergency was a turbulent phase in the history of Independent India and Indira Gandhi wanted to take over all power. After Emergency the political history of the country changed, there was instability in the Congress, and even though Gandhi made efforts to work for the people after returning to power, she lost the confidence of the people,” Kashikar said. The Jana Sangh was part of the Janata Party that won the 1977 elections. The BJP was born after the Janata Party fragmented in 1980.