Wilful misreading: Advani talks of Rahul's grandma, and Opposition sees reference to Modi

It is hilarious, and exceedingly rich, of the Congress and many other political parties opposed to Narendra Modi to pounce on LK Advani’s statement - that he cannot be sure that the 1975 emergency cannot happen again – to interpret it as a veiled reference to the way the central government is currently being run.

In an interview to The Indian Express, Advani said: "At the present point of time, the forces that can crush democracy, notwithstanding the constitutional and legal safeguards, are stronger…..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."

Wilful misreading: Advani talks of Rahuls grandma, and Opposition sees reference to Modi

LK Advani. PTI

This statement has got the opposition dancing in joy – even the Congress party that was the prime author of the emergency under the regime of Sonia Gandhi’s mother-in-law and Rahul Gandhi’s grandmother, Indira Gandhi.

Not one, but three foolish statements have emerged from the Congress.

Ghulam Nabi Azad glided past the obvious meaning of Advani’s statement and pointed fingers at Modi. He said: “Advani… has indirectly hinted that there was a declared Emergency 40 years ago but for the last one year there has been an undeclared Emergency. That is why he senses the threat of a repeat. I think the message should go across wherever it should go,” said Azad. So, the “declared emergency” needs no comment, but the “undeclared” one does? Clearly, this is the Ghulam speaking, not the Azad. The emperor just rushed passed the media without a stitch on.

Digvijaya Singh, whose words usually don’t need any comment beyond putting them in quotes to make their outrageousness self-evident, said: “We all know who he (Advani) is hinting at. He himself was a victim of Emergency and if he is saying that Emergency-like conditions can develop again and anti-democratic forces are becoming stronger, then it speaks volumes of what he has in mind.”

This a double self-goal. Singh is clearly indirectly admitting that the emergency had many victims, including Advani. Maybe he should brief his boss Sonia, who, in 2004, claimed the emergency was only a “mistake” and that Indira Gandhi was a real “democrat.” Digvijaya Singh also claimed Sonia had apologised for the emergency – an apology no one has heard about so far. Saying something is a “mistake” is hardly the equivalent of an apology.

The most intriguing comment came from Veerappa Moily (“oily Moily”), who ended up defending the emergency, claiming “The police and the army were called not to obey the order of the government. Elected governments were being threatened like what had happened in Gujarat. Indira Gandhi actually saved democracy.”

Putting thousands of opposition leaders and party workers in jail is a defence of democracy?

It is also interesting to note this was the exact justification given by Indira for imposing the emergency - that Jayaprakash Narayan, leader of the anti-government protests that preceded the emergency, was instigating a revolt in the army and police.

Maybe, Digvijaya Singh and Veerappa Moily should settle the argument with an arm-wrestle over whether the emergency was good or bad. They could hold this contest at 10, Janpath, with Sonia Gandhi giving the final verdict on who won – democracy or authoritarianism. Congressmen themselves seem confused on the score.

Not that Sonia isn’t confused herself. This is what she actually said in 2004 to journalist Shekhar Gupta: “Don’t forget that the Indira Gandhi I knew was a democrat at heart…Circumstances compelled her to take that action (declaring the emergency)…But she was never quite at ease.”

Poor helpless Indira Gandhi; she was “compelled” to put thousands in jail. Does that sound like an apology to anyone?

As for the other opposition parties, their criticisms are entirely laughable.

That eternal holier-than-thou “anarchist”, Arvind Kejriwal, asked whether Delhi is “their first experiment?” in imposing an undeclared emergency. No prizes for guessing who he is referring. Without in any way justifying the unwarranted roadblocks being placed in Kejriwal’s path by the Delhi Lt Governor and the Home Ministry, one wonders if Kejriwal is that paragon of democracy, having just turfed out two dissidents for crimes no greater than speaking out (Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan).

Then we have Lalu Yadav and his chief enemy till recently, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar. Lalu, who rose to fame for stopping Advani’s Ayodhya march, and Nitish Kumar, the man who flagged off Advani’s anti-corruption yatra a few years ago, are united only by their opposition to Modi.

Lalu said: “Advaniji proved that our concerns regarding anti-democratic elements and activities being sponsored and promoted by (the) Union government are correct. Already there is (an) undeclared emergency as authoritarian and Hitlerian (sic) tendencies (have been) prevailing in (the) country…”.

And this from a convicted criminal in the Bihar fodder scam.

As for Kumar, who suffers from Modi envy, the less said the better. “Advaniji is a very senior leader. I share his concerns, his worries are valid. We are facing an Emergency-like situation daily.”

Oh? In Bihar or elsewhere? Then why has he teamed up with Lalu Prasad, the man he accused of running a “jungle raj”? Is jungle raj not a form of anarchic authoritarianism?

And then we have the Left. “Advani is a very senior politician. And if he makes such a remark, I think it is very clear. He should come out openly if he was serious about the issue he was raising. At least during the time the late Indira Gandhi imposed the Emergency, she had blamed the Opposition. Now fears are being raised from within.”

So Indira Gandhi’s emergency had some redeeming features like blaming the opposition? If the criticism of Modi is coming from within, does that not contradict his claim that we are in an emergency? In any case, the Left, which has eulogised Stalin and Mao, both mass murderers on an unprecedented scale, and which ran an undeclared reign of local terror in West Bengal during 33 years of misrule, should be more familiar with undeclared emergencies, having practised it for decades.

Since every Modi detractor has suddenly found Advani to be a wise and “senior leader”, why don’t they take his word for it when he clarified that his emergency remarks had nothing to do with the Modi government. This is what Advani clarified today (19 June) in The Times of India: “There is absolutely no reason to interpret it (my statement on the emergency) in the present day context, as there is no reference to it. I have spoken only about (the 1975-77) emergency."

To be sure, there are good reasons to be concerned about civil liberties in the country, but they are only obliquely related to what Narendra Modi is doing at the centre.

Modi may or may not be a one-man show, but take a look at any headline over the last few days and months and anyone should be convinced that the man is under civil and media scrutiny like no one else before him. And it has been so since 2002. No one has gone to jail for criticising him, but people have for criticising Karti Chidambaram, Bal Thackeray, and sundry tinpot politicians.

The real undeclared emergencies are in the states, where family-led parties and authoritarian coteries rule the roost, with no respect for the law, and treating the state as personal property. This is where Advani’s remarks should really be applied, though even that was not his intent.

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Updated Date: Jun 19, 2015 19:32:31 IST

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