A few months ago the old Aurangzeb Road in Lutyens Delhi was renamed as Abdul Kalam Road. The outrage among the liberal secular and tolerant people in Lutyens Delhi was loud and emphatic. The BJP-led local municipality had just replaced the name every member of the Parivar hated with the only Muslim name they could stomach (having been chosen by Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the NDA’s presidential candidate in a brilliant manoeuvre which thwarted the Congress).
Fast forward to last week and Narendra Modi was denounced by the Congress as Aurangzeb. This meant they had joined the Parivar’s judgment about Aurangzeb. (I quite like him as he was the last Indian king to keep the Europeans under control on land and at sea. The last to try to unite India.) Now, of course, there is an all-party agreement that he was no good and he was Muslim! Since the Congress has also become a soft Hindutva party led by a Brahmin (the BJP is led by a mere OBC!), it has to equip itself with all the associated prejudices.
The Opposition has the one-item agenda of hating Modi. As in 1971, when the cry of the Old Congress was ‘Indira Hatao’, now it is ‘Modi Hatao’. Then Indira Gandhi said ‘Garibi Hatao’, and Modi’s refrain of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ is on similar lines. It goes further. On the anniversary of the Emergency, as the BJP reminds us of the one and only Fascist episode in India’s history over the last 70 years, the Congress has declared that we live under ‘an undeclared emergency’. So that is clear. It is not that emergency is bad. It is the fact that it is undeclared which is the problem.
The Congress has never examined or apologised for the Emergency Indira Gandhi imposed. It wasn’t because she was under any threat. There already was an emergency due to external threat since 1962. She had to impose an Emergency against internal threat. And for what? Just to avoid the inconvenience of complying with the Supreme Court’s injunction that she should not vote in the Lok Sabha while its judgment on her election cheating case was under consideration. As she had a large majority, her single vote could have hardly mattered. But a Nehru-Gandhi does not have to abide by rules; only the miserable ordinary people (all who are not Nehru -Gandhi) have to.
There is a bigger problem here which needs to be faced. Indira Gandhi’s decision to impose the Emergency was constitutional as Arun Jaitley has pointed out. This is because the repressive apparatus in the Constitution has been kept intact just as the British had designed it. The British needed the drastic denials of freedom because they were alien rulers. Why did the Constituent Assembly keep these repressive measures in tact? Even if they did, do we still need them when the people have repeatedly confirmed that they are law-abiding and democratic. Is it not time to reexamine the Constitution anew and remove the colonial detritus still there?
Never say never. Now that the Congress is desperate to show that it is a genuine Indian, nay, even a Hindu party, we may yet converge. To begin with let us agree that any Emergency, declared or not, is an attack on democracy.