The BJP on Wednesday (March 3) reacted to Rahul Gandhi’s statement that “Emergency was a mistake” and his veiled attack on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), by saying that the Congress leader would “take a long time to understand the RSS”.
Union minister and BJP leader Prakash Javadekar said at a press conference: “Rahul Gandhi has said that during the Emergency institutions were not weakened. His comments are laughable. At the time, the government suppressed all organisations. MPs and MLAs were arrested. Almost all parties were banned. Newspapers were also shut down.”
“It will take Rahul Gandhi a lot of time to understand the RSS. The RSS is the biggest school of patriotism in the world,” he said.
Gandhi made the admission about Emergency of 1975 at a webinar organised by Cornell University and hosted by economist Kaushik Basu. Gandhi said: “I think that [Emergency] was a mistake. Absolutely, that was a mistake. And my grandmother [Indira Gandhi] said as much. [But] the Congress at no point attempted to capture India’s institutional framework… frankly, it does not even have that capability.”
The BJP has often criticised the Congress and the then prime minister Indira Gandhi for imposing a nationwide Emergency in 1975, which lasted two years. During the period, the government arrested opposition leaders, journalists and stifled freedom of speech and the right to dissent.
Drawing a parallel between the Congress rule then and the present BJP government, Gandhi said there was a “fundamental difference” between what happened then and what was happening now which, according to him, was the RSS filling institutions with its people.
“So, even if we defeat the BJP in the election, we are not going to get rid of their people in the institutional structure,” he said.
“Modern democracies function because there is institutional balance… Institutions operate independently. That independence is being attacked in India [by] one big institution called the RSS… being systematically done…would not say democracy is eroding, would say it is being strangled,” he said.