Answering an allegation that has been thrown at the Congress by detractors over the past decades, its leader Rahul Gandhi has said that the Emergency imposed by his grandmother and former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi was a “mistake”, a fact that Indira even admitted later.
Taking a veiled swipe at the Modi government, Rahul, however, said that the Congress has never tried to meddle with the country’s institutional framework and the Emergency imposed by Indira, was “fundamentally different from the current scenario”.
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“I think that was a mistake. Absolutely that was a mistake. And my grandmother said as much. The Congress at no point attempted to capture India’s institutional framework…frankly, it does not even have that capability,” Rahul told economist Kaushik Basu in a discussion organized by Cornell University.
Emergency period which lasted for 21 months from 1975 to 1977, saw a clampdown on civil and media liberties as well as the incarceration of Opposition leaders. There have been allegations of human rights violations including forced sterilizations by the Indira Gandhi government too. The event subsequently led to Indira’s defeat in the General Elections in 1977.
The event ever since has been the Congress’ Achilles heel, that has been raised by the ruling BJP every time it came under criticism from the former on issues related to freedom of speech, right to dissent and media rights.
Clarifying that what happened during Emergency is not the same as what is happening today, Rahul said the biggest difference between the two is the fact that the RSS, the BJP’s ideological mentor, is 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,” Rahul said, as quoted by NDTV.
“Modern democracies function because there is institutional balance… Institutions operate independently. That independence is being attacked in India (by) one big institution called RSS… being systematically done…would not say democracy is eroding, would say it is being strangled,” he said.
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To prove his point, he cited the example of Madhya Pradesh, whose former Chief Minister Kamal Nath had told him that senior bureaucrats in his government were often reluctant to follow his orders due to their allegiance to the RSS.