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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)

Next Story

US President Donald Trump Not Declaring Emergency ‘Right Now’

The shutdown has crippled roughly 25 percent of federal agencies and departments and roughly 800,000 public employees are on furlough or working without pay

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Trump, U.S.
Trump not declaring emergency 'right now'. VOA

US President Donald Trump has said that he has no immediate plans to resort to a national-emergency declaration to build a wall on the border with Mexico, the issue behind a partial government shutdown now in its 21st day.

“What we’re not looking to do right now is a national emergency,” he said during a White House roundtable on border security on Friday.

“I’m not going to do it so fast,” Trump was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.

Donald Trump has said more than once in recent days that he would “probably” declare a national emergency, which would allow him to tap Pentagon funds for construction of a wall to resolve what he claims is a crisis on the border.

The Republican president demands that Congress provide $5.7 billion in funds for the wall as a condition for his agreeing to sign a spending bill that would allow affected federal government departments to resume normal operations.

USA. government
Donald Trump. VOA

Democrats, who now control the House of Representatives, say they are prepared to appropriate $1.3 billion for border security, including enhancements to existing fences, but will not pay for construction of a new barrier.

While some prominent Republicans have endorsed the idea of the emergency declaration, other GOP lawmakers remain uneasy.

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“We want Congress to do its job,” Donald Trump said Friday, at the same time he called on Democratic legislators to return to Washington.

Most senators and House members from both parties have already left Washington for the weekend.

The shutdown has crippled roughly 25 percent of federal agencies and departments and roughly 800,000 public employees are on furlough or working without pay. (IANS)