Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday unleashed a stinging attack on the Congress party, saying its “mad devotion” to the Gandhi family had turned the country into a jail during the Emergency, and 43 years later the party’s psyche of sycophancy had still not changed.
Speaking at a Bharatiya Janata Party event to mark the imposition of Emergency by Indira Gandhi on June 25, 1975, Modi dubbed the 21-month period -- a black spot on Indian democracy when hundreds of opposition leaders were jailed -- as a “sin of the party”.
“We would never have imagined that in the lust for power and the mad devotion to a family, those who talk big things about democracy and the Constitution had turned the country into a jail... for selfish personal interests of that family. Big leaders were put behind bars,” Modi said.
“An atmosphere of fear prevailed then. We will rarely find another example of how the Constitution was misused as a tool for a family,” he said in a fierce attack to counter opposition accusations that India was under “undeclared Emergency” under the BJP rule.
He said the Congress was “spreading illusionary fears” about the Constitution being tampered with, and Dalits and minorities being in danger. “The Congress can never improve. For promotion of self interest, they destroyed their own party,” he said.
Whenever the Congress party and “this family” senses loss of power, it starts “crying” that the country is passing through a crisis and that only it can save the country, he said, without naming the Gandhis.
Modi said there was no difference in the “psyche” of the Congress during Emergency and now.
Modi’s fusillade came a day after Union Minister Arun Jaitley compared Indira Gandhi, who was prime minister until her assassination in October 1984, with Hitler, as other BJP leaders also attacked the Congress for the excesses committed more than four decades ago.
During the Emergency, Indira Gandhi suspended civil liberties, jailed opposition leaders, muzzled the media and was accused of manipulating the judiciary as well as other democratic institutions. She lifted the Emergency in 1977 and called elections, in which she was soundly defeated. A coalition comprising Mrs. Gandhi’s opponents, including the BJP’s precursor, formed the government in 1977, but it collapsed two years later, and the Congress returned to power in 1980.
Modi also listed many of the restrictions during the Emergency.
“When (iconic Bollywood singer) Kishore Kumar ji refused to sing for them (Congress) during Emergency, his songs were not allowed to be played on the radio,” he said, adding that media persons were banned from writing anything against the then government.
“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” Modi said, adding his government was committed to safeguarding the Constitution and protecting democracy.
The effort to impeach Chief Justice Dipak Misra recently was made to “scare the judiciary” after charges were framed against “them”, he said, referring to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Indira Gandhi’s grandson, in the ‘National Herald’ case.
Modi pointed out that the Congress blamed electronic voting machines and the functioning of the Election Commission after it was reduced to 44 seats from 400 in Lok Sabha. Yet, the party did not question EVMs after the recent Karnataka elections where the Congress supported the Janata Dal-Secular to form a government, he said.
Modi hailed late Ramnath Goenka of the Indian Express, Kuldip Nayar and the Statesman newspaper for “standing up” against the Emergency.
“Many of them were not our supporters either. Nayar is critical of us. But they fought for democracy, we salute them,” he added.
Cong equates Modi with Aurangzeb, says he enslaved democracy for 49 months
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attack on the Congress and the Gandhi family over the Emergency, the party hit back equating him with Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and alleged that he was even more cruel and “enslaved democracy” in the country for the past 49 months.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said Modi was launching an attack on the Congress only to hide his own failures and the “false” promises and “jumlas” he had made to the public before coming to power.
He alleged that an atmosphere of fear was being created in the country to suppress dissent with those opposing them dubbed as “anti-national” and that an “undeclared emergency” was imposed in the country under Modi.
“Delhi Sultanate’s ‘dictator’ Modi, who is even more cruel than Aurangzeb, today gave lessons to the country on the Emergency imposed 43 years ago. By taking out his anger on the Congress, can a lid be put on Modiji’s ‘jumlas’?
“Today’s Aurangzeb has enslaved democracy in the country including in his own party, the BJP. Modiji while trying to put a lid on his own failures is taking revenge with history today, but he has forgotten that he himself will become history soon,” he told reporters.
Sharpening his attack on Modi for saying that the Congress should not give lessons to him on democracy, Surjewala said, “Aurangzeb never took lessons from anybody... Dictators don’t take lessons, only history teaches them lessons and I am sure Modiji will also have the same fate.”
In an apparent attack on Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, the Congress leader said “unfortunately, if those sitting in constitutional positions will also murder ‘maryada’ and set traditions, then people’s faith in democracy will be hurt.”
Surjewala alleged that the prime minister himself was threatening the states to fall in line or there will be a cut in the grants released to them.
“There is an undeclared emergency in this country for the last 49 months with opposition suppressed and PM Modi himself following those who give death and rape threats to anyone who oppose them, including BJP’s ministers,” he said.
The Congress leader alleged that an atmosphere of fear was being created to suppress dissent and Modi was distracting people to hide his own failures.
He said for the last 49 months, Modi’s mounting promises have been turned out to be lies as black money has not returned yet and democracy under the Modi government is dying.
He also alleged that the finance ministry is actively working to disrupt the thriving Indian economy instead of improving it.
Surjewala defended the Emergency saying it was imposed 43 years ago against the Janata Party which was pro-rich and pro-zamindars and was imposed to defend the rights of the poor, the Dalits and the have-nots.