Emergency in India: When Indira Gandhi's dark move galvanized the Opposition

Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had imposed Emergency in India on June 25, 1975. The move threw India's democratic polity completely out of gear.

Indira Gandhi

Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had imposed Emergency in India forty-four years ago on June 25, 1975.

The move threw India's democratic polity completely out of gear as several Opposition leaders were arrested and draconian measures undertaken to stifle free speech and press.

The Emergency lasted for 21 months from June 25 to March 21, 1977. 

(Photograph:Getty)

'Darkest period' in post-Independent India

The Emergency was imposed after India's President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed issued orders under Article 352(1) of the Indian constitution plunging the country into what is now known as the "darkest period" in post-Independent India.

(Photograph:AFP)

Allahabad High Court found Indira Gandhi guilty

The Emergency was triggered after a little known politician Raj Narain filed a case in the Allahabad High Court alleging election fraud after Indira Gandhi had defeated him in the 1971 elections.

The Allahabad High Court found Indira Gandhi guilty and declared her election null and void. The Indian prime minister lost her seat in the Lok Sabha due to the verdict.

(Photograph:Others)

Morarji Desai became India's first non-Congress Prime Minister

Indira Gandhi, however, appealed to the Supreme Court which upheld the verdict of the High Court and stripped her of her privileges as an MP which was a big blow to India's former PM who was the most powerful politician in the country in the aftermath of the 1971 war against Pakistan.

After the Emergency, during the election held in March, 1977, Congress managed just 153 seats as the Opposition Janata Party won 298 seats and its allies won 47 seats. Both Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay Gandhi lost the Lok Sabha polls.

Morarji Desai became India's first non-Congress Prime Minister.
 

 

 

(Photograph:AFP)

Rise of George Fernandes

The Emergency led to the emergence of George Fernandes who became a staunch opponent of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi during the days of Emergency in the country. 

Ram Vilas Paswan, Fernandes' colleague had said that his commitment to democracy and willingness to go to any length to propagate his cause was an inspiration to him and many others during the Emergency.

 

(Photograph:PTI)

Restrictions on the press

Indira Gandhi imposed the Emergency on "national interest" grounds, however, events kept turning for the worse as months passed with large scale restrictions on the press and illegal imprisonments.

State and national elections were postponed and a 20-point programme was promulgated to ensure industrial production and to fight poverty but it failed to produce any results amid large scale chaos.

 

(Photograph:AFP)

Opposition Galvanized

The Emergency galvanized the Opposition in India leading to Congress's defeat in the 1977 elections. 

Several Opposition leaders were arrested but it failed to break their unity as the Indira Gandhi-led Congress government stumbled.

(Photograph:AFP)