Many things have been said about the Emergency of 1975 imposed by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Around two years of Emergency between 1975-77 is considered to be the darkest period experienced by India in its 71 years of democracy. Now comes an interesting anecdote about Emergency, shared by outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee.
In his farewell speech on Sunday, President Mukherjee shared how on one occasion, after the Congress was thrown out of power because of the Emergency in 1977, Gandhi made foreign journalists break into laughter. Mukherjee said that following the defeat, he had accompanied Gandhi to London in November 1978. Upon arrival in London, Gandhi faced journalists who were in “aggressive” mood. The first question they asked her was about what she had gained from the Emergency?
“The first question that was flung at her was, ‘What have been your gains from the Emergency?’ Looking at the journalist squarely in the eye, in a level voice, Indira Gandhi replied, ‘In those 21 months, we comprehensively managed to alienate all sections of Indian people,'” Mukherjee said.
Mukherjee recalled that the journalists broke into laughter after the statement. “Big silence followed by loud laughter! Not one question was asked after that and the media persons just melted away,” the outgoing President said, adding he also learnt an “early lesson” from the incident. “And I also learnt an early lesson of acknowledging my mistakes and rectifying them. Self-correction in such situations is always a better option than self-justification,” he said.
In his speech, Mukherjee also noted how disruption in Parliament hurts the democracy. He shared a statement of first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru: “There has always to be balancing of change and continuity. The system of parliamentary democracy embodies these principles of change and continuity. And it is up to those who function in this system, members of the House and the numerous others who are part of this system, to increase the pace of change, to make it as fast as they like, subject to the principle of continuity. If continuity is broken, we become rootless and the system of parliamentary democracy breaks down.”