Union minister Arun Jaitley at a news conference (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)

Emergency Turned Democracy Into Constitutional Dictatorship: Jaitley

Union minister Arun Jaitley today recalled how more than four decades ago the government led by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed a 'phoney' Emergency, turning democracy into constitutional dictatorship.

Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency on June 25, 1975, on account of international disturbances, suspending key fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution to every citizen.

"The constitutional provisions were used to turn democracy into a constitutional dictatorship,” said Jaitley in a Facebook post, the first part of the three-part series titled 'The Emergency revisited'. The second part of the series will come tomorrow.

Jaitley further said that he became the first Satyagrahi against Indira Gandhi government's draconian move and was lodged in Tihar Jail for organising a protest meeting on June 26, 1975. On the intervening night of June 25-26, 1975 several prominent political leaders of the opposition parties were arrested.

"I led a protest of Delhi University Students where we burnt effigy of the Emergency and I delivered a speech against what was happening. The police had arrived in large number. I got arrested only to be served a detention order under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act. I was taken to Delhi's Tihar Jail for the purpose of detention,” Jaitley wrote in the Facebook post.

Also read: The Circumstances Leading To The Imposition Of Emergency

"I thus got the privilege for organizing the only protest on the morning of 26th June 1975 and became the first Satyagrahi against the Emergency. Little did I realize that at a young age of 22 years, I was participating in events which were going to be a part of history. For me, this event changed the future course of my life. By late afternoon, I was lodged in Tihar Jail as a MISA detenu," he recalled.

Jaitley said the years 1971 and 1972 were high points in the political career of Gandhi as she challenged the senior leaders of her own party and a grand alliance of opposition parties. "She won the 1971 General Elections convincingly... There was no challenge to her within her own party."

He said during the 60s and 70s, GDP grew at an average of only 3.5 percent. Inflation in 1974 touched a staggering 20.2 percent and reached 25.2 percent in 1975. Labour laws were made more stringent and these factors led to a near-economic collapse.

“There was large-scale unemployment and unprecedented price rise. Investment in the economy had taken a back seat. To make matters worse FERA was enacted. The Foreign Exchange resources in 1975 and 1976 were a mere $1.3 billion,” he said.

"The tragedy of Mrs Indira Gandhi politics was she preferred the popular slogans over sound and sustainable policies. The Government with a huge electoral mandate at the Centre and the States, continued in the same economic directions which she had experimented in the late 1960's," Jaitley said, adding Gandhi believed that India's slow growth was on account of smuggling and economic offences.

"By 1973, it became apparent that the Government had no intention of changing a disastrous economy path on which it had embarked. Its political strategy was instrumental in the Government losing the sympathy of the intelligentsia."