If there has been an excess of Emergency in the media lately, it is thanks to the Modi government. No, this is not to suggest that it is born out of fear that Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the 56-inch chest fame may impose Emergency to get things moving the way he wants.
It is because the darkest period in independent India could never have made it to the media, public debate and discussions in a Congress regime. The Congress did every thing to duck responsibility for it, and even more, to erase public memory of it. And while in office, the Vajpayee government did precious little to tell the young people of those years how hard won their freedom was. Even while in opposition between 2004-2014, the BJP did nothing towards this end.
So, why did the BJP organise a function to mark June 25—the 40th anniversary of the Emergency—as the Democracy Day?
There could be a few reasons. Possibly, they genuinely wanted to do it because it was all over the media—The WEEK brought people born in the post-Emergency period up-to-date with the “mid night knock” and all that it represented. Senior journalist Coomi Kapoor told her story of those months in a book titled, “The Emergency – A Personal History”. The dark 19 months had in fact been brought out of the closets and put in full view of the public.
The day also gave the BJP and Prime Minister Modi the opportunity to come down heavily on the Congress whose leaders appear to have finally learnt to oppose. With documents, facts and harsh statements Congress is busy exposing the Modi government over the Lalit Modi slush in which senior BJP leaders found themselves covered!
But above all, sources say, the BJP organised the function, and invited almost all and sundry, to snub former deputy prime minister Lal Krishna Advani. In spite of being the senior most leader to have witnessed the Emergency from close quarters—in jail—Advani was not invited to the BJP event, where other party leaders who were jailed then were honoured. The party veteran's crime: he had said that the politics of the country has not given him the impression that there will be no encore of the Emergency. Much to Modi's chagrin.
Not inviting Advani gave the impression of a petty prime minister and a petty party president, between them lacking two things at least: regard for seniors, something the RSS-BJP boast of, and plain courtesy. More importantly, they missed the point that democracy is all about tolerating diverse view points.
A speech by Advani at that event would have made it clear that he was not pointing fingers at Modi when he said that another Emergency cannot be ruled out. But it is nobody's fault if Modi has not heard of stooping to conquer! Or even agreeing to disagree!
Tail piece: Advani was not the only BJP leader active during the Emergency to have been left out of the Democracy Day celebrations. Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi and party leader Jagmohan, too, were not invited. They were active then, but on the other side of the political divide. Maneka was Sanjay Gandhi's wife, and Jagmohan executed the demolitions at the instance of Sanjay Gandhi.