PM’s stinging attack on Cong over Emergency

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI, June 26: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today unleashed a stinging attack on the Congress party, saying its “mad devotion” to the Gandhi family had turned the country into a jail during the Emergency, and 43 years later the party’s psyche of sycophancy had still not changed.
Congress immediately hit back and equated Modi to Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, saying the Prime Minister has “enslaved democracy” during the 49 months he’s been in power.
Speaking at a BJP event to mark the imposition of Emergency by Indira Gandhi on June 25, 1975, Modi dubbed the 21-month period — a black spot on Indian democracy when hundreds of opposition leaders were jailed — as a “sin of the party”.
“We would never have imagined that in the lust for power and the mad devotion to a family, those who talk big things about democracy and the Constitution had turned the country into a jail …For selfish personal interests of that family. Big leaders were put behind bars,” Modi said.
“An atmosphere of fear prevailed then. We will rarely  find another example of how the Constitution was misused as a tool for a family,” he said in a fierce attack to counter opposition accusations that India was under “undeclared Emergency” under the BJP rule.
He said the Congress was “spreading illusionary fears” about the Constitution being tampered with, and Dalits and minorities being in danger. “The Congress can never improve. For promotion of self interest, they destroyed their own party,” he said.
Whenever the Congress party and “this family” senses loss of power, it starts “crying” that the country is passing through a crisis and that only it can save the country, he said, without naming the Gandhis.
Modi said there was no difference in the “psyche” of the Congress during Emergency and now.
In New Delhi, Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala said Modi was attacking the Congress only to hide his “own failures”, his false promises and ‘jumlas’ he had made to the public before coming to power in May 2014.
Accusing Modi of creating an atmosphere of fear, and suppressing dissent by branding critics as “anti-nationals”, Surjewala said “Delhi Sultanate’s dictator Modi, who is even more cruel than Aurangzeb, today gave lessons to the country on the Emergency imposed 43 years ago”.
“Today’s Aurangzeb has enslaved democracy in the country including in his own party, the BJP. Modiji while trying to put a lid on his own failures is taking revenge with history today, but he has forgotten that he himself will become history soon,” he said.
Separately, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury claimed that the then RSS chief wrote letters of support to Indira Gandhi, and pleaded for release from jail. He also accused BJP of distorting history.
Modi’s fusillade came a day after Union Minister Arun Jaitley compared Indira Gandhi, who was Prime Minister until her assassination in October 1984, with Hitler, as other BJP leaders also attacked the Congress for the excesses committed more than four decades ago.
During the Emergency, Indira Gandhi suspended civil liberties, jailed opposition leaders, muzzled the media and was accused of manipulating the judiciary as well as other democratic institutions. She lifted the Emergency in 1977 and called elections, in which she was soundly defeated. A coalition comprising Mrs. Gandhi’s opponents, including the BJP’s precursor, formed the government in 1977, but it collapsed two years later, and the Congress returned to power in 1979.
Modi also listed many of the restrictions during the Emergency.
“When (iconic Bollywood singer) Kishore Kumar ji refused to sing for them (Congress) during Emergency, his songs were not allowed to be played on the radio,” he said, adding that media persons were banned from writing anything against the then government.
“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” Modi said, adding his Government was committed to safeguarding the Constitution and protecting democracy.
The effort to impeach Chief Justice Dipak Misra recently was made to “scare the judiciary” after charges were framed against “them”, he said, referring to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Indira Gandhi’s grandson, in the ‘National Herald’ case.
Modi pointed out that the Congress blamed electronic voting machines (EVMs) and the functioning of the Election Commission after it was reduced to 44 seats from 400 in Lok Sabha.  Yet, the party did not question EVMs after the recent Karnataka elections where the Congress supported the JD-S to form a government, he said.
Modi hailed late Ramnath Goenka of the Indian Express, Kuldip Nayar and the Statesman newspaper for “standing up” against the Emergency.
“Many of them were not our supporters either. Nayar is critical of us. But they fought for democracy, we salute them,” he added.
On the triple talaq issue, Modi said, “We raised voice against triple talaq. Why? Because the Constitution gives equal rights to all the sisters of India. But they (Congress) are more concerned about vote bank than democracy and the Constitution.”
Meanwhile, the rising crude prices have not resulted in a spike in inflation and the macroeconomic fundamentals of the country remain strong, Modi said.
Addressing the third annual meeting of the Governors of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Modi also said the BJP-led Government is committed to fiscal consolidation.
“Our macroeconomic fundamentals are strong with stable prices, a robust external sector and a fiscal situation firmly in control. Despite rising oil prices, inflation is within the mandated range,” he said.
The Government is firmly committed to the path of fiscal consolidation, he said, adding the Government debt as percentage of GDP is consistently declining.
“India has achieved a rating upgrade after a long wait,” Modi said, adding India has emerged as a “bright spot” in global economy, driving global growth with a USD 2.6-trillion GDP, that is expected to grow at 7.4 per cent this year.
“The external sector remains robust. Our foreign exchange reserves of over USD 400 billion provide us adequate cushion. Global confidence in India’s economy is rising. Total FDI flows have increased steadily and India continues to be one of the top FDI destinations,” he said.
Modi also asked the AIIB to ensure that its interest rates are affordable and sustainable apart from expanding its loan book by ten times to USD 40 billion by 2020 and USD 100 billion by 2025. (PTI)