The Bharathiya Janata Party(BJP) leader L K Advanis’s statements during an interview to a leading newspaper ahead of the 40th anniversary of the imposition of Emergency has put the ruling party in a tight spot leading to speculations that it was aimed at Prime Minister Modi.
Advani during his interview to Vandita Mishra of The Indian Express hinted that India couldn’t rule out a second imposition of Emergency. The former deputy Prime Minister expressed his concern that the “forces that can crush democracy are stronger” 40 years after the Emergency as there was a lack of "any outstanding aspect of leadership" in country's polity. He said that not much has been done so far to assure that civil liberties would not be suspended or destroyed again and that the commitment towards democracy as well as to all other aspects related to democracy was lacking. He said that despite the media being “more independent today” to unveil the totalitarian governments, he was uncertain about its commitment to democracy and civil liberties. Advani, a member of the ruling BJP’s ‘Margdarshak Mandal’, was jailed for 19 months during the Emergency on June 25, 1975, declared by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi across India, suspending elections and curbing civil rights. No voices were raised against Mrs Gandhi. The senior leader who was in the forefront of the fight against the regime’s authoritarianism, said that “partition was British guilt. The Emergency is ours” and that the encroachment on civil liberties was the highest during the time.
His observations lead to several interpretations. While the RSS dismissed the implications, the Congress and other members of the Opposition shared the patriarch’s concern including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury. Beyond the political controversies and debates, the senior Sangh Parivar leader seems to make the right observations. Modi too could tag along Mrs Gandhi by eliminating the obstacles in the path of accomplishing his saffronising agenda. The corporate bigwigs and their media who backs Modi, is more stronger now. Banning 13, 000 NGOs in two months is an instance. In a major crackdown, the BJP government targeted the NGOs, a majority of them who stand for human rights violations and environmental protection, citing the failure to submit the reports on time and violation of rules governing foreign funds. Banning these organizations that work towards a secular and democratic India is akin to an enforced Emergency.
The PM’s silence when the Hinditwa outfits unleash attacks on the minorities and hurt their sentiments is yet another reason for increasing the apprehensions over the situation. Advani’s statements couldn’t be neglected as they are not untrue or unrealistic. Given that, rising to the occasion by the various democratic forces when necessary is what is essentially needed.