Chapter : 13

What Are Democratic Resurgence ?

Background To Emergency

  • Indira Gandhi had emerged as a very popular leader. This was also the period when party competition became bitter and polarised.
  • This period also witnessed tensions in the relationship between the government and the judiciary. The Supreme Court found many initiatives of the government to be violative of the Constitution.
  • The Congress also alleged that the Court was a conservative institution and it was becoming an obstacle in the way of implementing pro-poor welfare programmes.

Economic Context

  • In the elections of 1971, Congress had given the slogan of garibi hatao (remove poverty).
  • However, the social and economic condition in the country did not improve much after 1971-72. 3. The Bangladesh crisis had put a heavy strain on India’s economy
  • After the war the U.S. government stopped all aid to India. Industrial growth was also low and unemployment was very high, particularly in the rural areas. In order to reduce expenditure, the government froze the salaries of its employees.
  • This caused further dissatisfaction among government employees. Monsoons failed in 1972-1973. This resulted in a sharp decline in agricultural productivity.
  • There was a general atmosphere of dissatisfaction with the prevailing economic situation all over the country.
  • In such a context Non-Congress opposition parties were able to organise popular protests effectively.
  • In such a context Non-Congress opposition parties were able to organise popular protests effectively.
  • There was also an increase in the activities of Marxist groups.

Gujarat And Bihar Movements

  • In January 1974 students in Gujarat started an agitation against rising prices of food grains, cooking oil and other essential commodities, and against corruption in high places. This agitation joined by major opposition parties and became widespread mainly in Gujarat and Bihar
  • Assembly elections were held in Gujarat in June 1975.The Congress was defeated in this election. After result protest forward to Bihar
  • After a point they invited Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) to lead the student movement. He accepted it on the condition that the movement will remain non-violent and will not limit itself to Bihar.
  • Both the Gujarat and Bihar agitations were seen as anti-Congress and rather than opposing the State governments, they were seen as protests against the leadership of Indira Gandhi. She believed that the movement was motivated by personal opposition to her.

Other Movement

  • The Naxalite Movement in 1967 a peasant uprising took place in the Naxalbari police station area of Darjeeling hills district in West Bengal under the leadership of the local cadres of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
  • Railway Strike of 1974 a nationwide strike by all employees of the Railways was led by George Fernandes.

Conflict With Judiciary

This was also the period when the government and the ruling party had many differences with the judiciary.

  • The Parliament amended the Constitution saying that it can abridge Fundamental Rights but the Supreme Court rejected those provision also. This led to a crisis as far as the relations between the government and the judiciary were concerned.
  • It had been a practice to appoint the seniormost judge of the Supreme Court as the Chief Justice. But in 1973, the government set aside the seniority and appointed Justice A. N. Ray as the Chief Justice of India.
  • The climax of the confrontation was of course the ruling of the High Court declaring Indira Gandhi’s election invalid.

Declaration Of Emergency

  • Jayaprakash announced a nationwide satyagraha for her resignation and asked the army, the police and government employees not to obey “illegal and immoral orders”. This too threatened to bring the activities of the government to a standstill
  • On 25 June 1975, the government declared that there was a threat of internal disturbances and therefore, it invoked Article 352 of the Constitution.
  • On the night of 25 June 1975, the Prime Minister recommended the imposition of Emergency to President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed.

Consequences

  • This brought the agitation to an abrupt stop; strikes were banned; many opposition leaders were put in jail; the political situation became very quiet though tense.
  • Deciding to use its special powers under Emergency provisions, the government suspended the freedom of the Press.
  • Apprehending social and communal disharmony, the government banned Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Jamait-e-Islami. Protests and strikes and public agitations were also disallowed.
  • Most importantly, under the provisions of Emergency, the various Fundamental Rights of citizens stood suspended, including the right of citizens to move the Court for restoring their Fundamental Rights. The government made extensive use of preventive detention.

Lessons From Emergency

  • One lesson of Emergency is that it is extremely difficult to do away with democracy in India.
  • Secondly, it brought out some ambiguities regarding the Emergency provision in the Constitution that have been rectified since. Now, ‘internal’ Emergency can be proclaimed only on the grounds of ‘armed rebellion’ and it is necessary that the advice to the President to proclaim Emergency must be given in writing by the Union Cabinet.
  • Thirdly, the Emergency made everyone more aware of the value of civil liberties. The Courts too, have taken an active role after the Emergency in protecting the civil liberties of the individuals. This is a response to the inability of the judiciary to protect civil liberties effectively during the emergency.

Lok Sabha Elections, 1977

Jayaprakash Narayan became the popular symbol of restoration of democracy. The formation of the Janata Party also ensured that non-Congress votes would not be divided. The Congress party was defeated in the Lok Sabha elections. The Congress could win only 154 seats in the Lok Sabha.

Janata Government

  • After the election of 1977 there was stiff competition among three leaders for the post of Prime Minister Morarji Desai, Charan Singh and Jagjivan Ram. Finally, Morarji Desai became the Prime Minister.
  • The Janata Party split and the government which was led by Morarji Desai lost its majority in less than 18 months.
  • Fresh Lok Sabha elections were held in 1980 in which the Janata Party suffered a comprehensive defeat and Congress Party came back in power.

Shah Commission Of Inquiry

  • In May 1977, the Janata Party government appointed a Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice J.C. Shah, retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, to inquire “into several aspects of allegations of abuse of authority, excesses and malpractices committed and action taken in the wake of the Emergency proclaimed on the 25th June, 1975”.
  • These included Indira Gandhi who appeared before the Commission but refused to answer any questions.