NEW DELHI (TIP): BJP patriarch L K Advani’s statement that “forces that can crush democracy are stronger” made in the context of the Emergency imposed by the Indira Gandhi government in 1975, created a buzz in political circles on June 18, with many interpreting it in the present day context and suspecting it as a barb directed at the Narendra Modi government.
While both BJP and RSS dismissed the “interpretation”, opposition parties from Congress to Aam Aadmi Party sought to play up the issue saying they shared the BJP veteran’s concern.
“Advani ji is correct in saying that emergency can’t be ruled out. Is Delhi their first experiment?” Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted. The AAP government and the Centre are right now locked in a power struggle with neither side willing to blink.
Advani said he had spoken “precisely about the Emergency in the interview, and there is absolutely no reason to interpret it in the present day context, as there is no reference to it. I have spoken only about Emergency.”
“At the present point of time, the forces that can crush democracy, notwithstanding the constitutional and legal safeguards, are stronger,” Advani said in a newspaper interview that appeared on June 18.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, no 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 PM, now a member of BJP’s Margdarshak Mandal said. Advani was incarcerated during the Emergency along with a number of other opposition stalwarts of his time.
Advani said, “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 leader M G Vaidya said he did not see it as a message to the Modi government. “I don’t feel anything like that. He (Advani) is quite senior in age and experience. So he can talk to Modi. He is part of BJP’s Margdarshak Mandal. I don’t think he has an intention of sending a message to Modi through an interview.”
BJP spokesperson M J Akbar also said it was not aimed at individuals but at institutions. “I think Advanji was referring to institutions rather than to individuals and he was talking completely in the context of the days of Emergency. I respect his views, but I personally don’t see Emergency, any chance of any Emergency being re-imposed 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 BJP. He did not want to name the Prime Minister. But whoever reads the interview, would understand he is talking about Modi,” Vadakkan said.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar said he agreed with Advani who expressed fear over return of Emergency in the country by saying that “forces that can crush democracy have become stronger”. His colleague JD(U)leader K C Tyagi, who was also imprisoned with Advani during Emergency, said “I agree with Advaniji that circumstances like Emergency and context are still alive and the reasons that lead to Emergency are not finished yet.”
SP leader Naresh Aggarwal remarked 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.
CPI MP D Raja shared the concerns expressed by Advani saying the Modi government was undermining Parliament and other institutions. Reacting to Advani’s remarks, he wanted to know as to whom the senior BJP leader had in mind when he talked about the possibility of imposition of Emergency. “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 Emergency she had blamed the opposition. Now fears are being raised from within,” he said. Raja accused the government of undermining Parliament by re-promulgating the land ordinance for a third time even when a House committee was going into a bill on the subject.