Those who inherited the legacy of the Emergency are today propping up tool kits that deride India and Indians on global platforms.
It has been 46 years since the darkest hour of the Indian democracy fell upon India. A tyrant, surrounded by a coterie of yes-men, inflicted deep wounds on the Constitution she pledged to protect and preserve. For 21 months, grave human rights violations were committed. Opposition was jailed, media was attacked and censored, judiciary was made to bend and state oppression became a legitimate form to suppress any kind of dissent. Congress led by Indira Gandhi perpetrated heinous crimes to crush democracy and lay the ground for one-family dictatorship.
The Emergency of 1975 was not a one-off event. It was a result of years of subjugation of democratic principles by a family that considers prime ministership as their birthright. The dictatorial tendencies, when it came to the members of the Nehru-Gandhi family, have become part of Congress’s DNA. It was in the Nehru era that the famous poet and lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri was incarcerated for 2 years for writing a poem criticizing former PM Jawaharlal Nehru. Today, this legacy continues.
A few months back, a news channel head, and a journalist was hounded, beaten, humiliated, and arrested for voicing his opinion on Congress’s acting President and the family matriarch Sonia Gandhi. Today, the same journalist is facing multiple FIRs for speaking truth to the high and mighty belonging to the Gandhi family, while the rest of the self-proclaimed guardians of media freedom stay muted at the wanton display of strong-arm tactics. All hell breaks loose if the scion is called out for his illogicality, rabid hate, and buffoonery. In a recent instance, a beverage company was attacked for caricaturing Rahul Gandhi in one of their ads, while in another, a professor was jailed in Mumbai for criticizing him for his remarks against Veer Savarkar.
This streak of vindictiveness that runs in the Congress is a constant reminder of Emergency days and what the party is capable of when handed absolute power.
The Nehru-Gandhi’s India is a nation that toes the line, reveres the ‘family’ and acts blind to the systematic loot of country’s resources, undermining of Constitutional offices and attack on its civilizational ethos. It is exactly what Congress’s prince-in-waiting, Rahul Gandhi would accuse others of. His wild allegations of ‘democracy in danger’ under PM Modi, bury the fact that the party he represents is at the forefront of dismantling institutional autonomy and using Constitutional offices as frequent political tool to dismantle state governments.
Former PM Indira Gandhi imposed President’s rule 50 times in 15 years of her being in power. In fact, in the history of Indian polity, the maximum number of times Article 356 was imposed was under the Congress rule. This is the stark reality of Congress headed by the Nehru-Gandhi family. They are the despots masquerading as democrats. But the difference between a dictator and democrat becomes apparent when one compares the legacy of Indira Gandhi and decades of seva done by PM Modi for the nation.
Indira Gandhi was born in privilege and spent her whole time in public office to perpetuate that condition for her children and grandchildren. PM Modi, born in humility and penury, is spending his time in office striving to build a legacy that ensures equal opportunity for all children born to this nation.
Indira Gandhi stifled democracy with imposition of Emergency while Prime Minister Modi fought to safeguard it. She despised opposition, a trait synonymous with dictators. After imposing Emergency, she jailed opposition leaders on imaginary grounds. In sharp contrast, PM Modi has acknowledged and applauded the opposition leaders for their contribution towards nation building. Those who value democracy, value the contrarian voices too.
Indira Gandhi was known to uproot state governments with arbitrary use of President’s rule. Her style of politics did not allow space for local or state leadership to grow. In Modi’s India, cooperative federalism has taken prominence in Centre-State relations, a recent example of which could be seen during Covid management. The Centre facilitated assistance of all kinds to the states, it opened continuous feedback channels to ensure that the needs of the states are met. When the states asked for decentralisation for the vaccination process, Centre acceded. When they asked for centralizing it again, Centre responded to that demand also constructively. In Indira Gandhi’s regime, the non-compliant state governments would have simply been dismissed.
The BJP, to which PM Modi belongs, has strong internal democracy, while Congress continues to make a mockery of the election for the Party president. No wonder, it is always a leader with Gandhi surname that is found eligible to hold the post.
One cannot conclusively claim that those dark days of Emergency era have ended. The descendants of this legacy are around propping up tool kits that deride India and Indians on global platforms. Till they are at the helm of Congress, their despotic impulse would keep raising its head, putting Indian democracy in peril. India must continue to reject them at all costs.