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Opinion

Modi has drawn many lessons from Indira Gandhi’s Emergency – save one

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In hindsight, the most enduring legacy of the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi was not the suspension of fundamental rights and her dictatorial stance. It was the lesson the opponents of Emergency drew from their success in dislodging her from power – that a regime can acquire all the attributes of authoritarianism but avoid incurring the wrath of the people as long as democracy was not officially suspended. To put it another way, it is possible to shrink democracy in India and violate Constitutional principles even as elections continue to be conducted.

The Emergency lasted for 21 months, from June 1975 to March 1977. Among those who fought against it was the Jana Sangh, which later transformed itself into the Bharatiya Janata Party. During this period, when Indira Gandhi and her Congress colleagues were cracking down on all dissent and jailing Opposition leaders, Narendra Modi – as a junior member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – is said to have passed messages from one leader in hiding to another. But in elections held in March 1977, Gandhi and the Congress suffered a bruising defeat.

The memory of removing the seemingly invincible Indira Gandhi from power has made it inconceivable for anyone to think of…

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