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Congress should also have learnt that dynastic politics doesn’t go well with democracy: Kuldip Nayar on 40 years of Emergency

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India is unlikely to see the imposition of another Emergency due to changes made in the Constitution and people being more vigilant, veteran journalist and political commentator Kuldip Nayar has said, noting that the Congress should have learnt the lesson of not pursuing dynastic politics from the period that saw a curb on civil liberties under Indira Gandhi.

Nayar, 91, who spent three months in jail during the 1975-77 Emergency, said that system was still dependent on the goodwill of the ruling party and there should be proportional representation in the Lok Sabha so that the opposition has a stronger voice in the house.

“There should be proportional representation for at least 50 percent of the seats. Still we are dependent on the goodwill of the ruling party and the prime minister. The opposition will get a stronger voice if there is proportional representation,” Nayar told IANS in an interview on 40 years of Emergency.

Nayar, a veteran journalist who has written several books, including a gripping account of the time, “Emergency Retold,” said the country had learnt its lessons from the Emergency that lasted from June 25, 1975, to March 21, 1977, and saw over 100,000 people being put under detention, civil liberties being curbed and imposition of press censorship.

Asked if the Congress had transformed itself after the Emergency, Nayar, a former high commissioner to Britain, said the party was still stuck in the dynastic mould and this was working to the advantage of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“Till the time they come out of dynastic politics, what can happen. Mrs (Sonia) Gandhi and her son (Rahul). Then people also talk of Priyanka (Gandhi Vadra). Dynastic politics is now a feudal thing. It does not go well with democracy. The Congress should also have learnt (from Emergency) that dynastic politics does not go well with democracy,” Nayar said.

Indira Gandhi, who imposed Emergency, was widely seen to have worked under the influence of her son Sanjay Gandhi. She was the daughter of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and her other son, Rajiv Gandhi, also served as the country’s prime minister.

Indira Gandhi’s daughter-in-law, Sonia Gandhi, is the Congress president and her grandson Rahul Gandhi is Congress vice-president.

Asked about senior BJP leader L.K. Advani’s remarks in an interview that forces that can crush democracy were now stronger and a repeat of an Emergency-like situation cannot be ruled out, Nayar said Emergency has become almost impossible because to ratify the measure, a prime minister who tries to impose it will need a two-thirds majority in each house of parliament due to amendments made in the constitution.

“What he (Advani) is saying is that environment is such where power is getting concentrated in one person. Just like at that time it was getting concentrated in Mrs (Indira) Gandhi, now it is getting concentrated in (Narendra) Modi,” Nayar said.

At the same time, he said there were now stronger safeguards for civil liberties in the constitution and its basic structure can also not be changed.

“What he is saying is that an authoritarian system can prevail. An authoritarian system is still possible. Style of governance depends on the person (who is the prime minister). There should be inner-party democracy and I feel that party elections should also be supervised by the Election Commission so that there is independence,” Nayar contended.

Nayar said his advice to the younger generation was that independence, democracy and secularism should not be taken for granted.

“These eternal principles or basics have to be renewed and protected. If there is any tendency (to disturb them), you should get up (and raise your voice). Because if you do not and keep walking, you will suddenly see that a lot of ground has been lost. I saw it during Emergency also that there was initially a response of chalta hai (let it be). This really became a danger,” Nayar said.

(Prashant Sood can be contacted at prashant.s@ians.in)

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BJP Offers Christians a Pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Is Religious Pilgrimage A New Playground For The Political Parties?

This would not be the first time that India has bankrolled pilgrimages for the Christians. Before this, the government had subsidized the Haj pilgrimage for the Muslim community

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In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented. Wikimedia Commons
In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented. Wikimedia Commons
  • The political parties (BJP and Congress ) are promising a free trip to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage in the coming local elections of the eastern states of India
  • The Christian population in Meghalaya and Nagaland is almost 75 percent and 88 percent respectively
  • After the Supreme Court’s intervention, the government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in a phased manner by 2022

The Campaign promises during the elections times are quite bizarre nowadays, from “I’ll cut your taxes,” to “vote for me, and I’ll set you free.”

In the coming local elections in the Christian- majority state of Nagaland in India the agenda by the rival BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and Congress parties are unique: “Vote for us and get either a free or a heavily subsidized pilgrimage to Jerusalem.”

Yes, you read it right. The political parties are promising a free trip to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage. The offer has been put up by the Prime Minister Modi- led BJP for the upcoming elections. Even the local partners of the Congress party are treading up the same path.

Recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons
Recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons

The BJP has not made it clear yet if it is offering the scheme to all of India’s Christians, or only to Christians in the northeast, or only to Christians in Nagaland. The Christian population in Meghalaya and Nagaland is almost 75 percent and 88 percent respectively. Nagaland is one of smallest states of India, with the population of just under two million people.

Also Read: Muslim women can now travel for Haj without Mahram

As per the Tourism Ministry figures, around 58,000 Indian tourists came to Israel in 2017, a 47% increase from 2015.

The elections are scheduled for the February 27 in three northeastern states – Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura – later this month.

The AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi also tweeted on the double standard of the government and lashed out at the government for its discriminatory decision, ending Haj subsidy but allowing subsidies to continue for Hindu pilgrimages like the Mansarovar Yatra.

This would not be the first time that India has bankrolled pilgrimages for the Christians. Before this, the government had subsidized the Haj pilgrimage for the Muslim community. But recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. The government cited the reason for the subsidy withdrawal as they wanted to utilise the funds saved from withdrawing the subsidy for the education of minorities, particularly girls. After the Supreme Court’s intervention, the government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in a phased manner by 2022.

Also Read: Government ends Haj subsidy as part of a new policy

The scheme is a clear cut example of hypocrisy and opportunism, especially considering the cancellation of Haj subsidies. It seems quite contrary, on the one hand, the government is cutting down the benefit scheme for one section of the society and on the other hand, some other community is been offered the same thing. Such moves bring out the double standards of the political parties just for the sake of vote bank. In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented.

In 2011, Nigeria also did something same as that of India. For many years, their government financed a trip to Mecca for Muslims, leading to some 42,000 Nigerians visiting the country. But with the change in the government, subsidies have been cut considerably and now a 12-day pilgrimage costs around 2000 dollars. The change in stance has resulted in 78% decrease from 2011.