New Delhi: BJP patriarch LK Advani's statement that "forces that can crush democracy are stronger" now created a buzz in political circles leading to speculation that it was a barb aimed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi but RSS dismissed it while Congress and other BJP rivals shared his concern.
"At the present point of time, the forces that can crush democracy, notwithstanding the constitutional and legal safeguards, are stronger," Advani told Indian Express in an interview.
In the years since the Emergency in 1975-77, he said, "I don't think anything has been done that gives the assurance that civil liberties will not be suspended or destroyed again. Not at all."
"Of course, one can do it easily...But that it cannot happen again--I will not say that. It could be that fundamental liberties are curtailed again," the former deputy prime minister, who is now a member of the BJP's Margadarshak Mandal, and was incarcerated during the Emergency along with a number of opposition stalwarts then.
Advani also said that he did not see any sign in the polity that assures him any outstanding aspect of leadership with a commitment to democracy and to all other aspects related to democracy is lacking.
"Today, I do not say that the political leadership is not mature. I don't have faith because of its weaknesses. I don't have the confidence that it (Emergency) cannot happen again."
Commenting on Advani's remarks, RSS ideologue MG Vaidya said Advani is a member of the BJP's Magadarshak Mandal and he did not think he was sending a message to Modi.
"I don't feel anything like that. He (Advani) is quite senior in age and experience. So he can talk to Modi. He is in the 'Margdarshak Mandal' of BJP. I don't think he has an intention of sending a message to Modi through this interview."
BJP spokesperson MJ Akbar also felt it was not aimed at individuals but at institutions. "I think Advanji was referring to institutions rather than to individuals. I respect his views, but I personally don't see emergency, any chance of any emergency being reimposed in the country. I think that age is over, Indian democracy is too strong, much stronger now," he said.
However, Congress spokesperson Tom Vadakkan latched on to Advani's remarks saying the "jury is out" from the ruling party itself and he was indeed hinting at "emergency-like" situation under Modi's rule.
"Today the jury is out. Advaniji is vocal. What he had to say, he has said," he told reporters.
"It is obvious whom he is talking about, whose government is there, who is the Prime Minister. He knows it. But he is a statesman-like leader of the BJP. He did not want to name the Prime Minister. But whoever reads the interview, he/she would understand he is talking about Modi," Vadakkan said.
Quoting from Advani's remarks, he said the veteran leader is "right" when he says the present situation in the country signals towards emergency.
JD(U) leader KC Tyagi, who was also imprisoned with Advani during the Emergency, said "I agree with Adavani ji that circumstances like emergency and context are still alive and the reasons lead to emergency are not finished yet."
SP leader Naresh Aggarwal remarked that that if Advani has expressed a worry then it was for the government to consider it seriously as a veteran member of their party has expressed a concern like this
"The system that is going on in the country at this time is not democratic and somewhere the dictatorship attitude is reflecting," he said.
Ashutosh, AAP leader, said Advani's statement clearly indicates that he has no faith in BJP government and no faith in its leadership.
"He (Advani) clearly visualises that the leadership of Mr Modi and the government of BJP are every day crushing Indian democracy and creating a situation and ambience where emergency is not far," he said.