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How A Determined Bunch of Lawyers Saved India From Indira During Emergency Years

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Excerpt from Saving India from Indira: The Untold Story of Emergency, Memoirs of J. P. Goyal 

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Lal Bahadur Shastri

Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri’s death on 11 January 1966 was a very unfortunate event in the history of India. He was a person who truly represented the common man of India. In my view, an even more unfortunate event in the history of India was the installation of Smt Indira Gandhi as the Prime Minister of India after Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri’s demise. The history of India over the last several hundred years has been witness to many unfortunate events that led to misrule in the country. It would be fair to say that Indians themselves were responsible for the imposition and continuation of oppressive foreign rule in India. This was made possible because of internal strife and hatred among Indians towards each other. 

A similar thing happened on the death of Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri. There was internal strife in the ruling Congress party, ultimately leading to the then President of the Congress party, Shri K. Kamaraj, and his colleagues installing Smt Indira Gandhi as the prime minister, favouring her over Shri Morarji Desai, who had the rightful claim, not only due to his being a senior member of the party but also because of his ability. 

Another unfortunate aspect for the country was that after Independence in 1947, the Opposition in this country had an almost nil presence in Parliament, even though the combined Opposition parties had got the mandate from the majority of voters. The Opposition was a divided house and the Congress party, which represented only a minority of voters, ruled on account of the fact that the various political parties in the Opposition could not come to an understanding and work together. The highest percentage of votes in the Lok Sabha elections obtained by the Congress party, even in Jawaharlal Nehru’s time, was about 48% of the total votes polled. Thus, more than 50% people of this country who went to the polls had voted against the Congress party. 

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Indira Gandhi

Towards the end of 1970, Smt Indira Gandhi gave the call of ‘garibi hatao’ (remove poverty) and thought that she had convinced people that she would indeed remove poverty. Even though the Lok Sabha election was due in February 1972, nevertheless, without any rhyme or reason, she dissolved the Lok Sabha on 27 December 1970 and declared that General Elections would be held in February 1971, one year ahead of time. She used lofty words without fulfilling any word of it.

This shows that Smt Indira Gandhi was not for maintaining democratic institutions and held elections much before the stipulated time when people were under a delusion, in order to come to power again for her own benefit and for the benefit of her party. The majority of the people in this country are hero-worshippers and believed that Nehru’s daughter would deliver the goods and remove poverty. In the General Elections of 1971, the Congress party was returned to the Lok Sabha with a huge majority. The Opposition was virtually routed. Here again, it must be pointed out that the Congress party got only 43.68% of the total votes polled. Thus, even in the 1971 General Election with the so-called ‘Indira wave’, the Congress party could not secure even half of the votes polled. 

Smt Indira Gandhi used to say that she had the will of the people behind her. Vast funds for the Congress party were collected from companies and wealthy individuals under implied threat or coercion. Many people gave money to the party under the impression that the Congress party would continue to rule for all times to come and that it was the only way of getting advantage out of the Congress party government.

Defections from the Opposition were encouraged, with the result that some important members of the Opposition joined the Congress party. Only hardliners among the leaders and workers of the Opposition did not do so. In my judgment, the country was ruled by the Congress party during this period more with a view to benefit its party members, who made their own money without doing anything. Most of the members of the Congress party in this country after Independence, in my view, have been self-seekers and promoters. At present, things are coming out revealing that those who were once at the helm of affairs made money out of funds of the public for their own benefit and devoured the money of the public. In all religious faiths, the saying is that if the ‘king’ himself is corrupt and immoral, his administration cannot possibly be good or proper. 

During Indira Gandhi’s regime of over eleven years from February 1966 onwards, until she was ousted in March 1977, it was apparent that she wanted to remain in power by hook or by crook. Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, one of the greatest leaders that this country has produced and with whom I was closely associated since 1960 onwards till his demise in 1967, used to say that the Nehru family members would work under the garb of democracy till it suited them and when it did not, they would discard it. At that time, people did not believe him and many people even laughed at his insinuations. But I see that his words have come true. 

Much can be said about the working of the government under Smt Indira Gandhi. A number of books have been written by various authors regarding the Emergency, the excesses committed thereunder, and related matters. However, I feel that certain essential aspects have not been touched upon in these books. One such book which I will mention is titled The Case That Shook India, written by Prashant Bhushan, the son of Shri Shanti Bhushan, the Union minister for law and justice in the Morarji Desai government.

I am sorry to say that some of the things have not been correctly or fully mentioned therein. I can say that I felt the necessity of writing this book after the said book was written. However, in my book, I will focus on some selective aspects related to the legal case leading up to the imposition of the Emergency in 1975, and thereafter. It is my endeavour in writing the present book to place before the public certain facts that I have personally known and experienced, have knowledge of, and was privy to. 

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  1. Jay Velury

    Selective facts can paint a picture far from reality. Author claims of Kamaraj and colleagues (The Syndicate) “installing” Indira Gandhi and favoring over Morarji Desai. To the contrary, Indira Gandhi was elected in a secret ballot by the Congress Parliamentary Party and was polled nearly twice as many votes as Desai. Not just the Syndicate but many in Congress disliked Morarji. As for “ability and rightful claim” of Desai, we were fortunate to see in 1977 and the author is not fooling anyone. Author conveniently fails to mention that the Syndicate installed Lal Bahadur Shastri by favoring him over same Morarji Desai as well as Krishna Menon (who had ability and rightful claim). The Syndicate even denied ticket to Krishna Menon in 1967 from North Bombay which he held for a decade and won with overwhelming majorities. Sh. Lohia found Indira Gandhi so cute and harmless and called her “Gungi Gudiya” Within a year he found her to be monster. His comments on Nehru was a cheap shot and exposes his frustration and small mind. Nehru had nothing to do with Indira’s election.

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