Democratic Resurgence Class 12 | Emergency | Political Science |
Background to Emergency
The Fifth General Elections of 1971 marked the restoration of the Congress dominance in India. The victory which the Congress gained in the Lok Sabha elections was repeated in State Elections also later in 1972. The Political commentators called it the ‘Indira Wave’.
• The influx of millions of refugees from Bangladesh had placed a great burden on the India’s resources.
• The whole military action against Pakistan put more stress on the economy.
• Indira had fought and won the elections of 1971 elections on the populist slogan- Garibi Hatao. But she became victim of her own populist slogans.
• The economic scene at this time was marked by considerable discontent.
• Following the international oil crisis of 1973, there was a general increase in the prices of oil, steel , fertilizers and petroleum.
• High rate of inflation in the country, in 1973 the prices increased by 23% and in 1974 it increased by 30%.
• There was sharp drop in food production at least by 8%.
• Famine conditions in some parts of the country, decline in agricultural productivity and unemployment became causes of great unrest in the years of 1972-73.
• Industrial activities were very low and unemployment became widespread. Because of which the government had to reduce the expenditure of the governmental work and hence it did not give salaries to the employees. Which made them furious.
• In Bihar and then in Gujarat there was a widespread agitation against corruption and inefficiency of the Congress governments.
• The agitation was initially led by students but slowly grew into a powerful anti-government movement.
• The Marxist-Leninist groups or the Naxalites had taken up arms and forcibly occupied lands in West Bengal and later in Andhra Pradesh. They were suppressed brutally by State agencies.
The Nav Nirman Movement in Gujarat
• In January 1974, students in a Gujarat College started an agitation against an increase in their ‘hostel mess charge’ owing to the rise in prices of food grains.
• The waves of unrest started affecting more and more colleges. Under the banner of Nav Nirman Samiti students and crowds marched in demonstrations, demanding the dismissal of the corrupt Congress government led by the Chinambhai Patel.
• The students sought Jayaprakash Narayan’s support for their agitation. He agreed on the conditions that protest would not use violence .
• He had insisted that all agitating political parties should come under one banner. But this did not happen.
• The people fought fearlessly against corruption, profiteering, maladministration , hoarding of food grains and other socio-economic evils.
• Moraji Desai, leader of the Congress-O went on fast in March 1974 in support of the demands of the Nav Nirman Samiti.
• As protests paralyzed the state, the Gujarat Legislative Assembly was dissolved.
• The opposition parties launched a movement to restore democracy.
• In Assembly elections held in Gujarat in June 1975, the Congress Party faced strong opposition which resulted in its defeat.
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The Bihar Movement
• It was at this time that an agitation against unemployment and corruption in government started in Bihar also.
• Jayaprakash Narayan had renounced active party politics, but he led the opposition against corrupt state governments in Bihar and Gujarat.
• He called for Total Revolution, which had the potential to change the social and economic and political scenario of the nation.
• The movement provided the students, farmers, workers, the dalits, the adivasis and the other backward classes an important channel through which they could express their resentment over many issues.
• The issues at stake were the rising prices, unemployment , corruption, casteism , communalism, untouchability and the abuse of democratic institutions.
• The movement spread throughout Northern India – the Movement spread over many parts of Northern India. On June, 1974 JP led a procession at Patna, which converged in a rally at Gandhi Maidan.
• JP was successful in transforming regional protests into a national movement.
Conflict with Judiciary
1. Conflict between Parliament and Judiciary
• In Golaknath Case, the Supreme Court had ruled that Parliament could not take away Fundamental Rights, even through an amendment to the constitution.
• The Court was of the opinion that the government cannot abridge the Fundamental Rights of the citizens in order to implement the Directive Principles of State Policy.
• In February 1970, the Ordinance to nationalize 14 banks was invalidated by the Supreme Court. As a result, the Congress alleged that the Judiciary was stopping the government from doing what it wanted to do for the poor.
• The Parliament reacted to the Supreme Court’s rulings by passing the 24th Amendment Act which removed all doubts about Parliament’s authority to amend any part of the constitution.
• In Kesavananda Bharati Case, the Supreme Court had upheld the validity of the 24th Amendment Act. But the Court also ruled that the Parliament had no power to alter the basic structure of the Constitution.
2. Conflict between Executive and Judiciary
• Conflict between the political masters in short the Executive and the Judiciary assumed a serious dimension with the suppression of the 3 senior most judges and the appointment of Justice A.N.Ray as the CJI of Supreme Court.
• Opposition leaders and many of the lawyers accused the government of having made this appointment for the political Considerations.
• The feeling in the country was that the government wanted a Committed Judiciary, which meant the Judiciary was committed not to the Constitution but to the Government or the authority.
• In 1971 Indira Gandhi was elected to the Lok Sabha from Rai Bareli Constituency in Uttar Pradesh.
• The Socialist leader Raj Narain filed an election petition against Indira’s election.
• Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha declared Indira Gandhi guilty of electoral malpractices and the misuse of government machinery for party purposes.
• The judge set aside her election and also stopped her from contesting any election for six years.
• The opposition party now began to shout for her resignation. Since the Prime Minister had been unseated, she had lost all moral claims to continue in power.
• She appealed to the Supreme Court and obtained only a conditional stay order on June 24.
• She could remain a member of the Lok Sabha pending until a decision on her appeal was made but she could not participate in the proceedings of the House.
Declaration of Emergency
• Because of Judicial pronouncements and other factors , there was a great crisis those days.
• The supporters of Indira did not want her to give up easily. They organized large public rallies to convince Indira that the country needed her.
• But there was an outcry of strong anger shown by the Opposition- the Congress (O), the Jana Sangh, the BKD , and the Socialists.
• Jayaprakash Narayan at a rally in New Delhi on 25 June 1975 demanded Indira Gandhi’s resignation and asked the action of army if needed.
Response of the Government
• That night Indira, even without any meeting of the Union Cabinet, advised the President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad to proclaim Emergency under Article 352 of the Constitution on the grounds of Internal Disturbances.
• The president agreed and the Proclamation of emergency followed soon after.
• The Proclamation to meet a threat to internal laws and order was the First of its kind since Independence.
• It was approved by the cabinet at a hurriedly summoned meeting on the morning of June 26. The Cabinet meeting lasted for just 15 minutes .
• This was a very serious matter, but not a single minister opposed the Proclamation of Emergency.
Consequences of Emergency
The declaration of State of Emergency followed the pre-dawn arrests of several prominent opposition leaders. It armed the executive with special powers to make preventive steps. Its main effects were as follows –
1. Effects on Civil Liberties : The President issued an order to curtail the Fundamental Rights, such as the right to life and personal liberty and the right to protection against arrest and detention.
2. Opposition was jailed: At the midnight of June 25 Jayaprakash Narayan, Morarji Desai and several other important leaders of opposition had been arrested. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was arrested on June 26 along with L.K Advani and Madhu Dandavate. They were detained under Preventive Detention Act, not because they committed any crime but in order to prevent them from doing so.
3. Misuse of Mass Media and the Press censorship : The mass media and the Press were subjected to Censorship and government control. The Press was gagged to an extent that the names of persons arrested were also pre-censored. Space meant for editorials was left blank by newspapers like the Indian Express and Statesman. A few journals like Seminar and Mainstream decided to shut the close down their publications rather than submit censorship of news and other writings.
4. Ban on many organizations: The Government had banned some twenty five organizations, including Jamait-e-Islami, Ananda Marg and the RSS. The government feared that these organizations could damage social harmony in the country.
5. Working of the Police, Bureaucracy and Magistrates : The imposition of the Emergency exposed the bureaucratic collusion with the police. Thousands of persons were detained and the police and magistrates had no desire to act according to any rules. The dividing line between right and wrong, ethical and unethical ceased to exist.
6. The weakness of the Judiciary : Most of the High Court judges were so afraid that they rejected habeas corpus petitions against detention without trial. When the matter went to the Supreme Court, the Attorney General argued that on suspension of the Right to life and personal liberty, a citizen had no right to approach the court of law and challenge his arrest.
7. Changes to the Constitution
• In order to undo the effect of the Allahabad High Court Judgement which unseated Indira Gandhi provided that the disputes related to the elections of President and Vice-President and Prime Minister and speaker were to be determined by such authority as would be constituted by the Parliament.
• 42nd Amendment Act – through this a new chapter on Fundamental Duties were added to the Constitution .
• The term of the Lok Sabha was and State Legislative Assemblies was extended from 5 to 6 years.
• A new clause was inserted in Article 368. It said that no Amendment of the Constitution shall be challenged in any court.
Controversies regarding Emergency
This event aroused much greater controversy than any other political event before.
Was the Declaration of Emergency necessary ?
In May 1977 the Janata government had appointed a Commission headed by Justice J.C Shah of the Supreme Court to inquire into allegations of excesses committed by the government during the the emergency .
The reasons that Indira Gandhi’s government and her supporters gave for declaring the Emergency were as follows-
1. Confrontation between the Government and the opposition – Government was really sincere about reviving the country’s economy following the international oil crisis of 1973 and rise in prices of 1974. Just then the opposition parties launched movements in Bihar and Gujarat with the sole purpose of overthrowing the democratically elected governments.
2. JP’s Call not to obey Illegal orders– JP’s call to civil, police and military orders of their personnel not to obey the orders of their seniors officials posed a grave threat. If extra-parliamentary politics, protests and agitation continued to disrupt the working of government, how can democracy survive?
3. Hurdles presented by Communal and Feudal forces – The communal and feudal forces blocked the implementation of progressive programmes, such as nationalization of banks and socialization of rural and urban land.
4. Nation is more important than Democracy – There can be no rights independent of society. They are relative to public good. The nation is more important than democracy. The government had to take stringent measures on order to protect country’s unity.
5. Grave danger to Country’s Unity and Integrity – there was a grave danger to country’s unity and integrity from internal and external enemies.
Criticism of Declaration of Emergency
Critics of Emergency were not satisfied with the reasons that government gave for declaring Emergency.
1. Emergency was imposed not because India was in danger, but because Indira was in danger. In other words the constitutional provision meant to save India was misused to save Indira and her hunger for power.
2. The JP Movement was not the one that provoked Indira to impose the Emergency– Both in Bihar and Gujarat JP agreed to lead the Movement on the condition that the protestors would not use violence. So how could his Movement contribute to Emergency.
3. Law and Order situation was mostly normal – The government had enough normal powers to deal with political agitators. There was no need to resort to undemocratic measures like the Emergency.
4. There was no threat to Unity And Integrity of the nation.
Happenings During Emergency
Power in the government and within the Congress has become concentrated in the hands of a small elite around Mrs. Gandhi.
The real tragedy was that her younger son Sanjay Gandhi had become a centre of extra-constitutional political authority.
The following things happened during Emergency –
1. The 20-Point Programme
• The Government announced a 20-point Programme that apparently seemed to benefit different sections of society.
• This Programme included – Ceiling on agricultural land , distribution of land among the landless labourers , abolition of bonded labour, ceiling on urban land, abolition of rural indebtedness , income tax benefits to the middle classes, workers’ participation in management of industries, benefits to students through regulation of mess charges and reduction in prices of books, stationery etc.
• Thus once again Indira projected herself as a benefactor of workers, peasants and weaker sections of society.
2. Emergency actions that caused widespread resentment and came in for severe criticism –
• Thousands of persons were detained under MISA and arrested under DIR. The Prime Minister felt so insecured that ministers’ phones were also being tapped.
• Youth Congress leader Sanjay Gandhi reigned like Medieval autocrat. He gave orders for forcibly clearing slums and pavement shops. Many settlements and houses were demolished by bulldozers.
• As part of the government’s Nasbandi programme government employee started targeting poor and illiterate people for mass vasectomy operations.
• Many of the detainees and prisoners died under torture.
Lessons of Emergency
The Emergency showed both the weakness and strength of Indian Democracy.
The Weaknesses –
1. The Emergency had exposed the timidity of the civil servants and the police officers. The anxiety to survive had become the key concern of the bureaucrats and police officers.
2. Emergency exposed the weakness of the Judiciary also. Most of the High Court judges Habeas Corpus petitions against detention without trial.
3. Even the journalists and the so-called intelligentsia gave in. Believing that the Emergency will go on forever, they simply joined the government camp.
4. The Ministers and the Congress MPs took pride in equating one person [Smt. Gandhi] with the nation as a whole.
5. Smt. Gandhi’s younger son Sanjay Gandhi, reigned like a medieval autocrat. He gave orders for forcibly clearing slums. The government staff resorted to all sorts of excesses to implement the Nasbandi programme [sterilization programme ].
Strength of India’s Democracy
• The Political prisoners were housed, fed and clothed like common criminals. Many of them were victims of physical torture. Misdeeds like these were not reported in the newspapers but people began to learn about them by word of mouth or through cyclostyled handbills. And this bred anger and hatred towards the government.
• The Journalists and the Lok Sangharsh Samiti – a few journalists did stand out as the Guardians of democratic values. JP had been released in November 1975 because of his poor health. The fighters against the Emergency established Lok Sangharsh Samiti in Gujarat, notably with the efforts of Makarand Desai, Nanaji Deshmukh, Karpoori Thakur, George Fernandes and Dr. Subramaniam Swamy. A noted Hindi write Fanishvarnath Renu retuned his Padma Shri award in protest against suspension of Democracy.
Lessons of the Emergency
The June 1975 Emergency was the darkest period in India’s post-Independence history. But it taught us many lessons.
1. People’s Commitment to Democracy – On 18 January 1977 Gandhi announced that Parliament was to be dissolved. Fresh elections were held in March 1977. Thus normal democratic functioning began again within a short period. Therefore, an important lesson of Emergency is that it is not possible to put an end to democracy in India.
2. Grounds for Proclamation of Internal Emergency – The 44th Amendment Act substituted armed rebellion for the words of internal disturbances in Article 352 of the Constitution. Thus Internal Disturbance alone would not be a sufficient ground for the proclamation of Emergency from now onwards.
3. Decision of the Union Cabinet should be communicated to the President in writing – The decision to impose the Emergency was taken by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi alone. The 44th Amendment Act inserted the clause that no such Proclamation can be made unless the decision of the Union Cabinet has been Communicated to be the President in writing.
4. Effects of the Emergency on Fundamental Rights, especially the Civil Rights – In 1975 democracy had been hijacked to serve personal interests. Even the Judiciary failed to protect civil liberties of the people. The 44th Amendment Act therefore provided that the rights guaranteed under Articles 20 and 21 cannot be suspended even during an Emergency.
Politics after Emergency
Emergency rule could not be sustained indefinitely. But Gandhi needed legitimacy to remain in power. Moreover, she might also have been believing that since the opposition parties had been out of gear of nearly 19 months, she would have a landslide victory in the elections. Secondly, the Emergency had exposed her government to condemnation from the world community.
Formation of the Janata Party
• Political Developments in the country moved at a lightning speed. The major opposition parties- the Congress-O, the Jana Sangh, the Bharatiya Lok Dal and the Socialist Party merged to form the Janata Party under the charismatic leadership of Jayaprakash Narayan.
• The newly formed Janata Party had Morarji Desai as its chairman and Charan Singh as vice-chairman.
• They agreed to have a single list of candidates and a common election symbol.
The Election Results
• The 1977 Lok Sabha election was an ‘Election Extraordinary’, a silent ballot box Revolution. For the first time the Congress Party faced a strong opposition, united under a strong leadership.
• The elections were seen as a Referendum on Excess of the Emergency days. The election slogans scratched on walls throughout Northern India were – save democracy and ‘Indira hatao, Desh Bachao’.
• The Janata party declared that the voters had to make choice between Democracy and Dictatorship. JP became a symbol of ‘restoration of democracy’ in the country.
• As a result, the Janata Party and its allies swept the polls and for the first time since Independence the Congress sat in the opposition in the Lok Sabha. The Janata Party and its allies won 330 seats in a house with 542 members.
• Janata Party itself won 295 seats. The Congress tally was 154 and its ally the CPI could win only 7 seats.
• In Northern States, Congress became highly unpopular and Janata Party had a landslide victory whereas in Southern India, however the Congress won most of the seats it contested.
Reasons for the first non-Congress Government coming to power at the Centre in 1977
In 1977 for the first time Congress lost power at the centre and a non-Congress government assumed power with Morarji Desai as Prime Minister. The reasons for the Janata Party coming to power were as follows.
1. Suppression of Rights and Civil Liberties – The Emergency had generated a great deal of terror. During the Emergency thousands were detained under MISA. All this brought in a lot of anger and hatred for the government
2. Opposition was United – The Congress Party faced a strong opposition, united under JP’s charismatic leadership. The Janata Party became a platform for all disgruntled elements to come together. The issue at stake was – Restoring Democracy.
3. Economic Discontent –Indira’s Garibi Hatao slogan was a flop. The government did not do enough to secure the implementation of the 20-point programme also.
4. Forced Sterilization – The thing that caused maximum resentment was carrying out family planning programme by forced sterilization.
5. Sanjay Gandhi became a Centre of Extra-Constitutional Authority.
6. The Muslims and the Dalits were alienated from the Congress – Forced sterilization had alienated the Muslims from the Congress Jagjivan Ram’s revolt against Indira Gandhi meant that Dalits also did have a feeling of dislike for the Congress party.
7. The Congress lacked a Strong Organizational Structure. Sanjay Gandhi had no respect for the senior Congressmen. The increasing dependence of Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi on bureaucrats and police forces alienated them from the party cadres. Party’s organizational structure had loosened. The Congress lost in many constituencies owing to internal bickering and quarrel also.
Why Congress won in South?
There were many reasons why the Congress managed to protect its fortress in the South India.
1. Forced Sterilization and forcibly demolishing slums were the things that happened only in North Indian states.
2. The Congress had to meet no resistance from Muslim and Dalit in the South.
3. The Congress leaders in the South most notably Vengala Rao, Devraj Urs and others, had a high rating and a good image. Moreover, there were not many factions within the Congress there.
4. The Intelligentsia and the middle classes – managers, doctors, lawyers, teachers and business people are sensitive to democratic values. In North India they were extremely angry with the government because of the excesses, but the South had not to face such a terrible situation.
Split in the Congress
1. Many of the old and experienced leaders blamed Indira Gandhi for the Party’s humiliating defeat in 1977. Gandhi on the other hand felt that they ignored her advice on the party matters.
2. This resulted in a spilt in the Party in January 1978. The Congress-I was led by Indira Gandhi and the other Congress , Congress-S by Swaran Singh and later by Devraj Urs.
3. In the Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka in February in 1978, it was the Congress-I which had a stunning victory, while on the other Congress was wiped out.
4. In November 1978 Indira Gandhi was returned to Lok Sabha in a by-election from Chikamagaluru in Karnataka.
5. The Congress-I got completely identified with Indira’s personality, who had proved to be the strongest person in the Congress.
The Janata Government
• After about 30 years of Congress domination the Janata Government formed the government at the Centre in March 1977.
• For the post of the Prime Minister three names were under consideration – Morarji Desai, Jagjivan Ram and Charan Singh. However, the first two were the main contenders.
• JP and Acharya Kriplani were authorized to decide the leadership issue after consultations with the newly elected MP’s of the Janata Party. They announced Desai’s name.
• Both Jagjivan Ram and Charan Singh were designated as Deputy Prime Ministers.
Achievements of the Janata Government
1. The immediate task before the Janata Government was restoring democracy and dismantling the Emergency structure. The political prisoners were released and Constitutional amendments enacted during the Emergency were repealed.
2. Another significant achievement of the Janata Government was restoring press freedom and judicial rights. The Shah Commission investigated the allegations of illegalities and excesses during the Emergency regime.
3. The Government also sought to promote labour-intensive industries and agriculture. The objective of the Antodaya Programme was to provide relief to the weaker sections of society.
Fall of the Janata Government and mid-term elections
• The Janata Government was short lived. Morarji Desai resigned on 15 July 1979.
• Charan Singh was sworn in as the new Prime Minister on 28 July with the support of the same Indira Gandhi who had jailed him during the Emergency in 1975.
Reasons for the split in the Janata Party
The following factors were responsible for dissensions in the Janata Party.
1. Lack of leadership– Many leaders were Nursing Political Ambitions of their own. Issue of the Prime Ministership seemed to have resolved on Morarji Desai becoming the Prime Minister, but Jagjivan Ram was upset and it required much persuasion to make him agree to join the Union Cabinet. Charan Singh on the other hand, strongly disfavoured Jagjivan Ram for the post.
2. Janata Party lacked a Common Programme – Janata Party was a combination of various parties. Each constituent party was keen to consolidate its own social base and pursue its own programme. Such disagreements and quarrels weakened the government. As a result, there was a rising tide of strikes and lockouts in the country. It frustrated people.
3. Charges and Counter-charges of Corruption – A controversy surfaced around allegations of corruption against Kanti Desai, son of the PM. Charan Singh demanded the setting up of a Commission to investigate the charges of corruption. The charges were not of a serious nature, but the Congress started paralyzing the House by raising the issue again and again. The Janata regime looked like a sad story of intense rivalries, defections and charges and counter-charges of incompetence and corruption.
Charan Singh formed a New Government
It became clear that the Desai government will not survive. Therefore, the Prime Minister Desai resigned. Charan Singh who had only 64 Lok Sabha members with him was sworn as the new PM. His government was being supported by the Congress-I and the Left parties. Three weeks later the Congress-I withdrew its support. Charan Singh resigned. The President dissolved the Lok Sabha on 22 August 1979. The fresh elections were held in January 1980.
Return of Indira Gandhi to Power
• People in India felt frustrated. The Janata Government collapsed under the weight of its own factional disputes and inner power struggles.
• Faced with a divided Opposition, the Congress-I won 353 seats and came back to power with a thumping majority.
• Indira Gandhi won the 1980 elections on the convincing slogan ‘’Vote for the government that works’’.
• It had a desired effect on the voters since they found the constant infighting in the Janata Party horrible and disgusting indeed.
• Indira was quite justified in calling the Janata government as ‘Khichdi Sarkar’.
• There were many significant features of Indira Gandhi’s regime from 1980 onwards.
• The Congress-I got completely identified with Indira’s personality. The dominance of Indira Gandhi and those persons close to her was practically total.
• Indira also attempted to use the organization for dynastic succession. She groomed Sanjay, her younger son, to take over the leadership of the Party.
• In June 1980 Sanjay died in an air crash. Thereafter Rajiv, the elder son, became her close advisor in party affairs.
Legacy of Emergency
The emergency and the period between 1977 and 1980 did affect the party system in India in ways more than one.
1. Non- Congressism – All opposition leaders and MP’s, excepting pro-Indira Communists, had been put behind bars. Their common sufferings brought them very near to each other. Non-Congressism became a feature of Indian politics.
2. The Congress and all the other parties appeared to pursue pro-poor programme – The 1970’s saw the dominance of populism in Indian politics. Gandhi claimed to be raising be raising the standard of life for the poor masses. The tilt of Janata Party’s programme was also towards poor farmers and the working classes.
3. Trend towards Two-Party System – The elections of 1977 provided a major step towards the emergence of a two-party system. There was a significant increase in the number of straight contests between the Congress and the non-Congress candidates.
4. Issue of the welfare of Backward castes – the support for the Janata Party in 1977 elections had come largely from North India and more so from rural areas and the backward castes.
5. Restoring Judiciary’s Independence – The Janata government took steps in restoring rights of the judiciary. In fact, an attack on the entire constitutional framework. Therefore it was essential to uphold the rule of law.
6. Role of Mass Protests in a Democracy – The late seventies also saw the spate of many mass movements in the country. There were movements for separate States within Indian Union or for greater autonomy within the existing Constitution. In fact, demonstration and movements are an outcry against the failures of legislature and administration. People have the right to protest and carry on demonstrations if their legitimate aspirations were not fulfilled.
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