Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday, the day India completed 45 years since the Emergency, lashed out at the Congress in a series of tweets for turning the country into what he called a prison and curtailing all forms of freedom during that time.
“On this day [Thursday, June 25], 45 years ago one family’s greed for power led to the imposition of the Emergency,” Shah wrote on Twitter. “Overnight the nation was turned into a prison. The press, courts, free speech all were trampled over. Atrocities were committed on the poor and downtrodden.”
Shah praised the people whose efforts led to lifting of the Emergency. “Democracy was restored in India but it remained absent in the Congress,” he added. “The interests of one family prevailed over party interests and national interests. This sorry state of affairs thrives in today’s Congress too!”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the sacrifices made by people who fought against the Emergency will never be forgotten. “Emergency was imposed on the country exactly 45 years ago,” Modi tweeted. “I salute the people who fought for India’s democracy and endured torture.”
Shah also claimed that members of the Congress were being stifled by the leadership. “During the recent CWC [Congress Working Committee] meet, senior members and younger members raised a few issues but were shouted down,” Shah tweeted. “A party spokesperson was unceremoniously sacked. The sad truth is – leaders are feeling suffocated in Congress.”
On June 18, Congress President Sonia Gandhi removed Sanjay Jha as the party’s spokesperson, almost 10 days after he criticised and questioned the party’s leadership in an opinion piece published in The Times of India. In his opinion piece, Jha had also called out his own party for its indifferent attitude. He had served as the Congress’s national spokesperson since 2013.
Shah added the Congress needed to ask itself why its members were unhappy. “As one of India’s opposition parties, Congress needs to ask itself: Why does the Emergency mindset remain? Why are leaders who don’t belong to 1 dynasty unable to speak up? Why are leaders getting frustrated in Congress? Else, their disconnect with people will keep widening,” he said.
The Congress hit back at Shah for his criticism of the party’s leadership. “As India’s ruling party, BJP needs to answer: Why is its majoritarian rule described as Govt [government] of two people and all others as mere side kicks?” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala wrote on Twitter. “Why is horse trading, mass defections & institution capture its only legacy? Why is it obsessed in its vile hatred of Nehru-Gandhi’s?”
Shah’s Cabinet colleagues Prakash Javadekar and Nirmala Sitharaman also criticised the Congress for severe curbs imposed during the Emergency. “On 25 June 1975, Congress imposed an emergency to save a family,” Javadekar tweeted. “What the Congress is doing even today after 45 years is to save a family.”
“I wonder, those who killed the democracy 45 years ago are questioning the government today,” he added. “The party that suppressed the entire system, ended the freedom of all and jailed scores of people, particularly from the opposition, is now raising slogans of freedom? Such politics will not work.”
Sitharaman accused the party of taking away people’s rights during the Emergency. “Congress was hankering for power, it was for the sake of office,” she was quoted as saying by PTI. “The law was broken and an emergency was declared.”
The Union ministers’ stinging attack on the Congress came amid the opposition party’s fierce criticism of the Centre over its response the violent face-off with China in Ladakh and its strategy to contain the coronavirus. The Congress had strongly contested Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claim that China had not entered the Galwan Valley, the site of a violent clash that left 20 Indian soldiers dead.
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The Emergency was declared in India for a 21-month period from June 1975 to March 1977 by Indira Gandhi, who was then the prime minister, just days after she was found guilty of electoral fraud by the Allahabad High Court and barred from the parliament for six years.