Speakers at the release of a book on the Emergency, written by Congress leader A.H. Vishwanath, MP, differed on how its imposition by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1975 impacted the country.
Speaking at the launch of Aapatsthitiya Aalaapagalu-Turtu Paristhitiya Maru Avalokana (Dialogue on the Emergency, a review of Emergency days) here on Saturday, Congress leaders, including the former External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, subtly defended the proclamation of Emergency.
They said that it had resulted in implementation of pro-people programmes, most importantly the land reforms Act, which benefited landless tillers.
BJP leader and Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs S. Suresh Kumar unveiled the darker side of the Emergency and disputed claims made by Congress leaders. However, the Minister did not forget to extend the credit of implementing land reforms to the then Chief Minister D. Devaraj Urs.
Mr. Vishwanath said that he was not “justifying, glorifying or condemning” the Emergency. Releasing the book, Mr. Krishna said Mr. Vishwanath had sincerely and seriously documented his thoughts on the Emergency, with responsibility.
Recalling the arrest of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani and Madhu Dandavate during their visit to Bangalore as part of a parliamentary committee delegation, when he was the Industries Minister in Urs’s Cabinet, Mr. Krishna said he did not have any inkling about the Emergency being proclaimed.
The situation in the country at that point was volatile and the spectre of anarchy loomed large, said Mr. Krishna.
Admitting that some excesses occurred, he, however, asserted that some pro-people programmes such as land reforms could be implemented because the Emergency was proclaimed.
“Considering the success of pro-people programmes, people in the State and neighbouring Andhra Pradesh supported the Congress,” he noted.
Mr. Kumar, however, while recalling suppression of human rights during the Emergency, narrated an incident in which he was arrested and administered “third-degree treatment” by the police. “Over 17,000 people were arrested under Maintenance of Internal Security Act and Lawrence Fernandes, brother of George Fernandes, was tortured beyond imagination,” he said.
Countering Mr. Krishna’s claim of people opting for the Congress, he said Gundayya Shetty who contested the Legislative Council elections in 1976 got elected by a thumping majority. “The fruits of land reforms was only a byproduct, not the main product,” Mr. Kumar said.
Mr. Vishwanath also used the opportunity to appeal to Mr. Krishna to take an active role in politics.
He said that it was time for Mr. Krishna, who is known for practising value-based politics, to return to active politics to “purify” the political atmosphere.