It is not the 1975-1977- like Emergency in India. But actions of some of the Modi government’s ministers and Sangh Parivar and its allies, leaders are reminiscent of the Emergency period’s mindset-perhaps even worse. In what way the situation is likely to influence the future political scenario? An answer to the question cannot be attempted without a postmortem of Modi government’s rule which completes its first year in office on May 25th. To begin with, take a couple of positive developments under Modi’s one year rule.
The Prime Minister has improved India’s relations with neighbours and has also some foreign policy successes to his credit despite flip-flop on Pakistan. Though his frequent foreign trips have prompted some observers to sarcastically describe him as India’s “NRI Prime Minister,” yet these visits evoked enthusiastic response from the Indians like myself settled abroad and also helped him gain a place on the global platform. It has been Modi’s long journey from Gujrat Chief Ministership to India’a Prime Ministership and then to join the company of some of the world’s leading figures. On the negative side, Modi’s one year in office has marked by his authoritarian functioning, centralization of powers,resurgence of religious extremism, curbing of freedom of expression and issuing of diktats by some BJP-ruled states for conducting certain trades and professional activities. Some example:Maharashtra BJP government forces multiplexes to show Marathi films at prime time,Censor Board issues diktats to film industry evoking strong protests from the latter, Maharashtra BJP’s ally Shiv Sena wants the voting rights of Muslims to be revoked.
These disturbing developments need to be seen in the context of what had happened during the Emergency when the all -powerful Sanjay Gandhi and his coterie had let those a reign of excesses, suppressed civil liberties and freedom of expression and imposed censorship. The situation had become extremely explosive as the country faced the threat of being overtaken by the army-backed Sanjay-led civilian coterie. Sanjay Gandhi had proposed a four -point plan envisaging A takeover by the Prime Minister as president and virtue being the supreme commander of the armed forces,abrogation of constitution and suspension of fundamental rights, abolition of the Supreme Court and high courts, and arrest of leading congress leaders .Indira Gandhi was reluctant to accept the plan. Even after the Allahabad High Court’s June 12, 1975 judgement disqualifying her from contesting elections for six years, she was still not inclined to take such extreme steps. But under pressure from her son and his coterie, she reluctantly approved the takeover plan on June 25′ 1975. I remember interviewing Indira Gandhi on June 8th ,1975 at her residence in a very tight security. Emergency was imposed at midnight on June 25th, although the resolution for imposing Emergency was passed by the cabinet next morning. Indira Gandhi’s decision two years later to lift the Emergency and announce general elections in which the congress was routed is now a part of popular history.
The situation that has developed during the Modi government’s first year rule is not exactly what had happened during the emergency. But in certain respects it is more worrying. For instance,during 1975-77 while excesses were committed and civil liberties curbed, there was no threat to the country’s unity and integrity. But the Modi Government’s one year rule has been marked by resurgence of religious extremism and sharp communal polarization which has the potential of posing a threat to India’s unity and integrity. India is a pluralistic and secular nation. But after the RRS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s declaring Hindustan as Hindu Rashtra , all shades of Hindutva protagonists even including some BJP ministers and MPs and sadhvis and sadhus started making inflammatory and hate speeches against Muslims and Christians. One of them even said that “there will be no Muslims and Christians in India by 2021 as all of them would be converted Hindus”. Shiv Sena wanted the voting rights of Muslims to be revoked. Some hotheads demanded forcible sterilization of Muslims and Christians. Some extremist Muslim leaders responded saying every person was born as Muslim. These utterances have created communal tensions. The irony is that the powerful Prime Minister while indicating his disapproval of communal utterances which polluted country’s communal atmosphere said the he could not be expected to publicity clarity or make statements every time something like that happened! Speaking at a Christian religious function in New Delhi in February, he however said”My Government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly. Mine will be government that gives equal respect to all religions and protects the right of every individual to adopt and retain the religion of their choice.” Modi’s conciliatory comments were perhaps prompted by his fear that his assiduously cultivated global image was getting tarnished by attacks on the churches in India. He, however, has not taken any action against his ministers making inflammatory statements. Politicians never shy taking hypocritical postures whenever it suits them! Speculating about the future political scenario, there does not seem to be any threat to the Modi government’s stability though it is destined to further lose its sheen in the coming months. If the six parties constituting the newly formed Janta Parivar stand united overcoming their past rivalries and personality clashes, they can pose formidable challenge to the BJP in the next year’s Bihar assembly’s election. BJP President Amit Shah’s comments few days back in public meeting in Bihar that zero plus zero will be zero is nothing but daydreaming as in the last year’s Bihar by -elections, the BJP’s performance was uninspiring. As it is well said, politics is a gamble which does not take long to make winners as losers and losers as winners. (Yog Rahi Gupta is a free lance writer based in Winnipeg, is also a host of Radio program Voice Of India @Radio CKJS 810 A M )