There are aspects of the 1975-77 Emergency the country is now witnessing like the gagging of the press, intimidation of leaders, misuse of agencies, and the orchestrated lynch-mob violence, senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram said here on Friday. “Nobody fears even the Prime Minister. Even on the day he condemned violence in the name of cow protection, a man was lynched in Jharkhand. The state’s police force and the mob do not listen to the Prime Minister. That is what is worrying me,” he said, adding that lynch-mob violence is “orchestrated and not spontaneous”. Chidambaram was answering questions in a panel discussion on the occasion of launch of the book “Indira Gandhi- India’s Most Powerful Prime Minister” written by journalist Sagarika Ghose. Asked whether the country is witnessing another Emergency or what his party leaders say is mere rhetoric, the former Union Minister said the Constitution has been amended and it is not possible to impose Emergency of the 1975 type.
“It is practically impossible (to proclaim Emergency) but there are aspects of 1975-77 Emergency… muzzling of press, intimidation of leaders, use of agencies against organisations and entities, and above all attempt to stifle (dissenting) voices,” he said. About the 1975 Emergency he said the threat (of anarchy) was real then. Jayaprakash Narayan had issued a call to forces and there was a danger of law and order situation going out of hand. “The JP movement must have given apprehensions, but the answer (Emergency) was wrong. The threat was real,” the senior Congress leader said.
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He said Indira Gandhi was brave enough to accept her mistake and apologise. She had the courage to call elections. Asked whether Congress President Sonia Gandhi and party Vice President Rahul Gandhi should apologise, Chidambaram said: “After 40 years, do generations have to apologise?” “I think there are some other apologies that are due,” he said in an apparent reference to the present dispensation. Echoing Chidambaram’s views, former Union Minister and BJP leader Arun Shourie said it was a kind of “decentralised situation” in which there is no centralised edicts but there is an erosion of institutions. The ties between the people and the state are weaker.
“The idea of Money Bill being used to marginalise the Rajya Sabha which is happening time and again and the scale of exaggeration of falsehood by 2,000 per cent….the bureaucracy has been weakened today…there is no single adviser whom we can say they know,” he said. Comparing the position of Congress now with that existed in 1977 when Indira Gandhi came back to power three years after the defeat, Chidambaram said Indira Gandhi then fought ex-Congressmen and and some very tired socialists. “But what Congress is fighting now is a formidable machine called RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). They have a political mission. They will do everything to achieve it. The Congress is weak institutionally and at the roots,” he said.
He said the organisation was completely neglected for 10 years when the party was in power between 2004 and 2014. The state unit and the district unit presidents neglected the party machinery. When told by moderator Karan Thapar that Sonia Gandhi was the Congress President and should she not be held responsible, Chidambaram said she was the President and she will take responsibility. Asked specifically about the leadership that will revive the party, he shot back that the leadership will emerge.
In his remarks, Shourie said Indira Gandhi had good advisers but ultimately she was responsible for what she did. He said from accounts he had heard, he came to know that Indira Gandhi was remorseful. However, he said, he was not sure who advised her on dismissal of the governments of N.T. Rama Rao and Farooq Abdullah which was disastrous.