Terming Emergency as the biggest setback to democracy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said its memories should be kept alive to further fortify the democratic structure as the struggle against it gave birth to a new generation of leaders and a new kind of politics in the country.
“Emergency was the biggest blow to democracy. The kind of crisis that hit the country during that period had tempered the Indian democracy which came out stronger. I am grateful to those who struggled and fought against it. …”, he said.
“Emergency should be remembered not to brood over what had happened then, but to strenghten our resolve to fortify and further strengthen the democratic values and framework in our country,” PM Modi said at the programme ‘Loktantra Ke Prahari’ where he also felicitated many of those who fought against Emergency and went to jail in 1975-76.
Paying glowing tributes to the Loknayak on his 113th birth anniversary at the function, he said Narayan was “an institution, he was a light house and a role model” and “a new political generation was born during the Emergency that was fully dedicated to democratic values, inspired by JP.”
“The biggest message that came out of the anti-Emergency struggle was the inspiration to fight repression. So many people in politics today owe their initial days to those days of Emergency, JP Movement, Navnirman Movement … they gave birth to a new kind of politics in the nation,” the Prime Minister said.
Observing that the struggle by Jayaprakash Narayan for democracy should be taken as a benchmark, he said his speeches reflected the “deep anguish” of the people who suffered during Emergency. “Even though he was a soft-spoken man, his speeches were like the boiling lava.”
Observing that the democratic values were inherent among Indians, Modi said though the top political leadership was in jail when elections were announced by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, it was the people who sent home many bigwigs by exercising their franchise.
While there was one view at that time to boycott these elections, another view was to take part in them, he said.
“When elections were declared in 1977, the top leadership was in jail. No one knew what was happening, but see the strength of people and their respect for democracy. Elections were held in the shadow of fear … people did not attend public meetings due to fear, but the voters sent home many bigwigs by employing the mighly tool of democracy,” he said.
Attacking then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for imposing Emergency, Modi said something good emerges even from a bad and the struggle that ensued during that period helped strengthen democracy.
Gandhi was more bothered about her image abroad than within the country, he said, adding that several opposition leaders were also in foreign countries to spread the word against repression.
“We decided people will go overseas and talk about the true picture of the Emergency,” Modi said, adding he had worked with Subramanian Swamy, who went abroad, in those days.
He also lauded JP for being a person with an open mind who was not restricted to any one thought or ideology. “He lived for the truth and what he felt was right,” he said.
In his address, BJP veteran Leader L K Advani said when India became free; the focus was not only on freedom from colonialism but also on strengthening the democratic framework.
Describing JP as “an all-party man”, Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu said that is why he could bring about such a change in the country.
Among those who were felicitated at the function were veteran BJP leader L K Advani, Shiromani Akali Dal chief Parkash Singh Badal, four Governors — Kalyan Singh, O P Kohli, Balram Dass Tandon and Valubhai Vala, former Deputy Speaker Kariya Munda, besides BJP leaders V K Malhotra, Jaywantiben Mehta and Subramanian Swamy.
NCP leader D P Tripathi, journalists Virender Kapoor and K Vikram Rao, Prof Ramji Singh, Kameshwar Paswan and Arif Baig were also honoured by PM Modi.