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‘SS Ray pushed clueless Indira to declare Emergency’

In a sensational revelation, President Pranab Mukherjee, in his just launched memoir of the years that led to the Emergency and beyond, The Dramatic Decade: The Indira Gandhi Years, has claimed that former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was not even aware of the Constitutional provisions allowing for declaration of Emergency that was imposed in 1975. Mukherjee goes on to say it was the then Chief Minister of West Bengal Siddartha Shankar Ray who led her into the controversial and much-reviled decision.

Mukherjee, who was always late PM Indira Gandhi’s trusted aide, adds Ray later denied before Shah Commission that he was instrumental in scripting the years and its excesses.

“It is believed that Siddartha Shankar Ray played an important role in the decision to declare the Emergency: It was his suggestion, and Indira Gandhi acted on it. In fact, Indira Gandhi told me subsequently that she was not even aware of the Constitutional Provisions allowing for the declaration of a state of Emergency on grounds of internal disturbance, particularly since a state of Emergency had already been proclaimed as a consequence of the Indo-Pak conflict in 1971,” says Mukherjee in the book.

Because a number of people had claimed the ‘authorship of Emergency’ when it was on only to retract the claims later before the Shah Commission, Mukherjee’s assertions assume great historical significance.

“Not only did they disown their involvement, they pinned all the blame on Indira Gandhi pleading their own innocence. Siddartha babu was no exception. Deposing before the Shah Commission, he ran into Indira Gandhi--draped in a crimson sari that day--in the Commission hall and tossed a sprightly remark: ‘You look pretty today’.

‘Despite your efforts,’ retorted a curt Indira Gandhi, says Mukherjee in his 321-page book that covers various chapters including the liberation of Bangladesh, JP’s offensive, the defeat in the 1977 elections, split in Congress and return to power in 1980 and after. Published by Rupa, the book and available on Amazon, the book has caught many eyeballs already. ‘Drawing from personal diary extracts, conversations with key players of the 1970s, and vital secondary literature, Pranab Mukherjee presents an exceptional portrait of a complex nation,” said a press release from Rupa.

On Mrs Gandhi’s midterm resignation, Mukherjee,  writes, “Which democracy in the world would permit a change of a popularly and freely elected government through means other than a popular election? Can parties beaten at the hustings replace a popularly elected government by sheer agitation? Was it not prudent for those who were determined to change the government to wait till the elections which were but round the corner?

Does the rule of law mean that the remedies available to the common man are to be denied to someone holding an elected office? How could anybody replace her when the overwhelming majority of Congress MPs—with a two-thirds majority in the Lok Sabha—resolved that Indira Gandhi should continue as the party’s leader in Parliament and thereby as the Prime Minister of India?”


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