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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)

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Now India is One of The Most Open Countries for FDI: Narendra Modi

Modi had conceptualised the summit as Gujarat Chief Minister in 2003 to position the state as an ideal investment destination after the 2002 riots.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said that his government had made doing business in India easier, cheaper, faster and smarter with his term accounting for almost 45 per cent of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) that the country received in the last 18 years.

Speaking at the inaugural function of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2019 here, he said India was now one of the most open countries for FDI with over 90 per cent approvals put on the automatic route.

“In the last four years, we have received FDI worth $263 billion. This is 45 per cent of the FDI received in last 18 years,” Modi told the gathering.

He said India was among the top 10 FDI destinations.

FDI
PM Speaks on FDI www.news.civilserviceindia.com

Modi, who is on a three-day visit to his home state to throw open his pet biennial Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit, said the India of today was a land of “immense opportunities” being the only place that offered democracy, demography and demand.

“Fifty cities in India are ready to build metro rail systems. We have to build 50 million houses. The requirement of road, rail and waterways is enormous. We want world class technologies to achieve our goal in a faster and cleaner way. India is thus, a land of immense opportunities.” he said.

The Prime Minister said the challenge for India, as in most emerging economies, was to grow horizontally as well as vertically to ensure that the benefits of development spread to regions and communities that have lagged behind while also meeting enhanced expectations in terms of quality of life, quality of services and quality of infrastructure.

“We are well aware that our achievements, here in India, will directly impact one sixth of humanity.”

Modi said his government had removed the barriers which were preventing India from achieving its full potential and now it was ready for business like never before.

The government has made doing business easier. cheaper, faster and smarter, he said.

“In the last four years, we have jumped 65 places in the global ranking of World Bank’s Doing Business Report. From 142 in 2014 to 77 now, but we are still not satisfied. I have asked my team to work harder so that India is in the top 50 next year.

“We have also made doing business cheaper. The historic implementation of Goods and Services Tax and other measures of simplification and consolidation of taxes have reduced transaction costs and made processes efficient.

“We have also made doing business faster through digital processes, online transactions and single point inter-faces,” he said.

According to LocalCircles, each person who voted in the survey is registered with the portal with their detailed information and in many cases they shared their residential address.
Doing business in India now easier, cheaper, faster, smarter: Modi

He said his government had made doing business smarter by insisting on IT based transactions and digital payments including direct transfer of government benefits.

Modi added that he understood that being a young nation, India needs to create job opportunities and better infrastructure, which are both linked with investments.

“Therefore, in recent years, there has been unprecedented focus on manufacturing and infrastructure,” he said.

Listing the achievements of his government, he said for the first time, India had become a net exporter of electricity, had installed transmission lines at an unprecedented pace and had doubled the speed of road construction with rural road connectivity now at 90 per cent.

Also Read: PM Narendra Modi to Unveil National Film Museum in Mumbai

“At 7.3 per cent, the average GDP growth, over the entire term of our government, has been the highest of any Indian government since 1991. At the same time,the rate of inflation at 4.6 per cent is the lowest for any Indian government since 1991, when India began its process of liberalisation,” he said.

Modi had conceptualised the summit as Gujarat Chief Minister in 2003 to position the state as an ideal investment destination after the 2002 riots. (IANS)