Wednesday July 18, 2018
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Congress accuses Madhya Pradesh CM of luring voters; BJP denies allegations

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Bhopal/New Delhi: The Congress on Friday moved the Election Commission (EC) demanding action against Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan for allegedly inducing a local BJP leader to muster support for Saturday’s by-poll in Garoth assembly constituency after promising him favours.

An audio tape containing a purported conversation between the Chief Minister and local BJP leader Rajendra Choudhary has gone viral on various social websites.

In the tape, given to the EC by the Congress, Chouhan is heard asking BJP leader Rajendra Choudhary to support the party’s nominee for the Garoth assembly by-poll in Mandsaur district. He is also heard offering Choudhary a position in the government in return for the task.

“We must not lose. Everybody’s prestige, including yours and mine, would go down … I would make you. I know you were also equally eligible (to get the ticket for the seat). After election, I will look after your interests,” the chief minister is heard telling Choudhary.

The chief minister is also heard as saying that he knew about the local leader’s aspiration to contest the election for the seat for which he could not secure the official nod.

The BJP, however, denied the allegations, saying the audio tape was just part of Congress General Secretary Digvijaya Singh’s dirty politics.

“It is a non-issue, just a part of Digvijaya Singh’s dirty politics. Congress makes efforts to malign image of Shivraj Singh Chouhan before every election,” BJP leader Vishwas Sarang told reporters in Bhopal.

Speaking on the issue, Digvijaya Singh said that he would want the EC to send the tape to a forensic lab to get its authenticity checked.

“The BJP has said the tape is fake. I want that the Election Commission should send it to a forensic lab and see whether it is fake. I take full responsibility of this tape if it is found fake,” he told reporters in New Delhi.

“This is how the BJP works. Accusations against them are wrong and against us are right … This shows their mentality,” he said.

“This is against the electoral code of conduct. We have demanded an Election Commission probe. They have assured us that they will probe the matter,” he said.

A delegation comprising senior leaders Digvijay Singh and Mohan Prakash and Congress legal cell secretary K.C. Mittal met the Election Commission on Friday afternoon.

Congress candidate Subhash Sojatia also filed a complaint on Friday at Bhanpur police station of Mandsaur district after the audio clip went viral on social media.

Mandsaur SP Manoj Sharma told IANS that the complaint has been forwarded to the Election Commission.

Chouhan has addressed many public meetings in support of party candidate Chandar Singh Sisodia. (IANS)

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Then It Was Emergency Now It Is Democracy

The Emergency happened 43 years ago and both, Mrs Gandhi and the Congress, lost power because of it in 1977

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Then It Was Emergency Now It Is Democracy
Then It Was Emergency Now It Is Democracy. Pixabay

An all-out war of words broke out last week between the BJP and the Congress on the 1975 Emergency. Observing June 26 as a ‘black day’, several BJP leaders targeted the Congress at events held across the country to highlight the Emergency’s excesses. Leading the charge with a sharp attack on the Congress was Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Addressing BJP workers in Mumbai last Tuesday, the prime minster said the country still refers to June 26 as a ‘dark period during which every institution was subverted and an atmosphere of fear was created’.

Without naming the Nehru-Gandhi family, Modi said the Constitution was misused at the behest of one family. He further went on to say that the mentality of the family had not changed even now after 43 years of the Emergency. ‘Whenever the family feared loss of power, it keeps shouting that the country is in crisis,’ the prime minister added. Expectedly, the Congress hit back with equally sharp criticism of the Modi government, equating Modi to Aurangzeb. It alleged that the prime minister was even crueller than the Mughal emperor as Modi has “enslaved democracy” in the country for the past 49 months with an “undeclared emergency”.

The 21-month period from 1975 to 1977, when the then prime minister Indira Gandhi had declared Emergency, was indeed a dark chapter in India’s democratic history. This was the third national Emergency – the first one was in 1962 when China invaded India and the second was in 1971 during the war with Pakistan – and the only one to be declared citing the “internal disturbances”.  During the 1975 Emergency, opposition leaders were arrested, civil rights curbed, elections postponed, anti-government protests crushed and press censored. It shook India to its core as the freedom to liberty, dissent and express ceased to exist. All this is well-known and in public domain. Therefore, what was so special about the 43rd anniversary of Emergency that the BJP observed as ‘black day’?

Bringing back memories of the Emergency days was clearly aimed at striking at the Congress’s weak spot. It was also meant to neutralise Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s frequent ‘murder of democracy’ gibes directed at the Modi government. This was not entirely unexpected in a pre-election year; neither was the Congress’s equally sharp response by likening Modi to Aurangzeb. As 2019 general elections approach, not only the political exchange between the two parties will gather momentum, but over the next 10 months, election-driven rhetoric, name-calling, inane allegations and historical debates will increase. Reminding Congress of the Emergency is just the beginning.

Congress on Friday promised to create one crore jobs across the southern state
Congress- wikimedia commons

While terming the Emergency as an ‘aberration’, the Congress has never expressed any remorse about the dark chapter in its history or condemned it. Claiming that during Emergency, Mrs Gandhi targeted the rich, black marketers, hoarders and zamindars is no justification for curbing civil liberties and press freedom and neutralising the opposition. The hesitation to admit Emergency as a major mistake has denied the Congress an opportunity to reassert its commitment to democratic values, though it was the primary builder of democracy in India after independence.

The Emergency happened 43 years ago and both, Mrs Gandhi and the Congress, lost power because of it in 1977. Since then, the Congress has ruled at the Centre several times without resorting to emergency measures. On the contrary, it has shown its commitment to democratic order and liberal values far better than the current BJP-led government. The Emergency of 1975 and the violations of civil liberties and press freedom were all real. But its parallels can be drawn with the contemporary situation, which is marked by erosion of institutional independence and integrity, rising intolerance and increasing mob violence which stems from the ideological support of the ruling party.

The right-wing assaults on constitutional institution and individuals’ democratic rights are for real, though there is no Emergency in force in India today. While conventional opposition leaders and parties have the liberty to become more than conventional Opposition and there is also the rising wave of resistance to right-wing assaults on individual rights and institutions, it is also true that there are whiffs of Emergency sentiments in the air and the strains of the Emergency doctrine and pulsations of fear are quite obvious. The Congress is not entirely off the mark when it accuses the Modi government of ‘undeclared emergency’ as the freedom of the media, people’s freedom of expression and their right to live without fear have come under new kinds of threats.

There is no overt press censorship but the government has tried to muzzle and manipulate the media through various means. A section of the media has either caved in to the fear of administrative power or fallen for the lure of money-power. Apart from the media, there have been sustained attempts to weaken and misuse other constitutional and non-constitutional institutions, including the judiciary. Interestingly, all this is happening when the BJP is in power and questioning the Congress’s commitment to the principles and practice of democracy, while the BJP has diluted its own commitment to the philosophy of parliamentary democracy, liberal values and press freedom.

This is quite surprising because while the taint of Emergency continues to haunt the Congress, the BJP, despite its proud status of a party whose leaders were at the forefront of the struggle against the Emergency 43 years ago, is not deterred to misuse the levers of power against its political opponents, ‘difficult’ sections of the media, and independent or ‘inconvenient’ voices that question the government on various issues. With scant regard for critical debate and plurality of views under the current ruling dispensation, what we are seeing now is some kind of a role reversal. Mrs Gandhi subverted institutions to retain power. The BJP is trying to do the same by weakening the same institutions.

Also read: India sends Emergency Fuel Supplies to Sri Lanka

The Emergency should serve as a warning to political parties: threats to democracy and people’s constitutional rights – either directly or indirectly – create resentment and negative public opinion against government. The Emergency created a unity among opposition parties that never existed before and became the cause of Mrs Gandhi’s defeat. It is too early to say whether the Modi government’s attempts to misuse democratic institutions for his party’s narrow interests and the right wing attacks on institutions and rights of citizens will help create similar kind of opposition unity, which will determine the outcome of 2019 elections. (IANS)