PMO Diary I Prelude to the Emergency reveals that anticipating an adverse verdict on June 12, 1975, Indira Gandhi took a series of questionable steps. Most significantly, it explodes the lie that the Emergency became imperative after JP's appeal to the army and police to disobey government orders ... L.C. JAIN comments.
THE Emergency was lifted 25 years ago. But the curtain on "how" it was brought about has been lifted only now by an insider - Bishan Tandon (PMO Diary I - Prelude to the Emergency, 2002), who was joint secretary in Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's Office. He used to maintain a diary of the daily happenings in the PMO.
The Diary provides clinching evidence that fearful of an adverse court verdict, Mrs. Gandhi took a series of questionable steps in anticipation of the court verdict of June 12, 1975. The most crucial step was taken in 1973, i.e. two years before the court verdict, namely the appointment of A.N. Ray as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1973, on the head of three senior judges, Shelat, Hegde and Grover, in spite of President V.V. Giri's advice to the contrary. "She ignored him (Giri)". Records Tandon, "Gokhale (Law Minister) said in unequivocal terms that he was not happy with the decision and whatever had happened should not have happened. But, he said, the PM was adamant. In the end, he said that everyone had agreed that no risk should be taken in the PM's election case and that Hegde could not be `trusted'."
On June 3, 1975 (nine days before the Allahabad High Court judgment), Gokhale had met Mrs. Gandhi and afterwards, discussed her case with A.N. Ray, Chief Justice of India, who told him that "if the Allahabad High Court gave an adverse ruling, there should be no difficulty in getting an absolute stay." Tandon noted: "I keep thinking: had Hegde or one of those three been the Chief Justice, would Gokhale have had the temerity to speak to him?"
Apart from anxieties caused to Mrs. Gandhi by the court hearings of the election petition against her, there was growing public concern about her political morality. First, she was fighting exposures about Sanjay Gandhi's Maruti, setting the police upon officers collecting information about its affairs. Then she was resisting the demand in Parliament and outside, for a commission to enquire into L.N. Mishra's licensing scandals. The Speaker was a crucial figure here. On December 9, 1974: Raghuramiah, (Parliamentary Affairs Minister) acting on the PM's instructions, met the Speaker (Mr. G.S. Dhillon) to request the Speaker not to give the ruling in favour of an enquiry. "The Speaker was furious. He upbraided Raghuramiah. He told Raghuramiah that he would not change his ruling."
When Raghuramiah reported the outcome, Mrs. Gandhi became very angry. She told Mr. Dhar (Principal Secretary to PM) that she was going to resign and that he should prepare a draft immediately. She said she was going to see the President right away, and added in a raised voice that "now there would either be a new PM or a new Speaker. The Speaker is refusing to appreciate the situation. How dare he refuse to listen to me?" The Speaker yielded.
Public discontent against Mrs. Gandhi was also mounting due to student agitations in Bihar and Gujarat demanding dissolution of the Assemblies and a call for fresh elections. She tried to play a trick and frustrate the Gujarat movement. Tandon records that "While privately, the decision was taken not to hold the elections till after the monsoon, the PM told the Home Minister to counsel the Election Commissioner that the government would write to him to hold the Gujarat election early but he should point out his own difficulties in doing so". The Chief Election Commissioner, T. Swaminathan, when presented the proposal, "became furious and refused to countenance the suggestion". In retaliation Mrs Gandhi withheld the appointment of A.N. Sen to the post of Deputy Chief Election Commissioner. "The PM said that she could not approve Sen's appointment because he was not on our side and he will not help us at all".
Mrs. Gandhi also scuttled the lawful decision-making forums of the Central Government and the Congress party to make them submit to her will and ways. To this end, an extra-constitutional command under Sanjay Gandhi was set up in the PM's House (bypassing the PMO) with her PA, R.K. Dhawan as its visible face. Investigative agencies, broadcasting paraphernalia, the Delhi Government Lt. Governor downwards, were all put under the thumb of this command.
Most significantly, the Diary explodes Mrs. Gandhi's lie that the Emergency became imperative after JP's appeal on the evening of June 25, 1975, to the army and police not to obey the orders of Government. She suppressed the last four words of JP's appeal namely "which they (the army and police) considered unlawful". The Diary provides clinching evidence that, in fact, preparations for the Emergency were well in hand prior to JP's public meeting on the evening of June 25. The preparations began on June 12, 1975 after the news came (10.05 a.m.) that "Justice J.M. Sinha had set aside the PM's election and upholding the charges of corruption ... barred her from contesting any election for six years ... " By 10.30 a.m. "she had a whispering discussion with Dhawan and Sanjay after which Dhawan started telephoning people, to organise demonstrations in favour of the PM". The Haryana Chief Minister "issued orders from the PM's House that all deputy commissioners in Haryana should help organise these rallies".
Devendra Sen (CBI Director) told Tandon that "Sanjay had taken full control and everything in the PM's house was being done on his orders". The previous day, the director general of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was summoned and Sanjay "gave him orders on what the CRPF's deployment should be on the day of the Supreme Court's ruling". On June 21, 1975 she instructed that the radio and TV scripts of all news bulletins be shown to her before they were broadcast. She directed that "the proposed demonstration in front of Morarji's house to be properly highlighted". Mrs. Gandhi wanted to make a broadcast to the country on the radio. She was advised against it. "She lost her temper and said `I am the PM, can't I use even my radio and TV?'".
Imagine all this from one, who on May 26, 1969, was paid what Indira herself called "the biggest compliment". On one of his maps, Buck Minister Fuller, creator of the world famous Zeodosic Dome had inscribed: "To Indira, in whose integrity God is entrusting much of the evolutionary success of humanity and with utter safety".
To understand how a person with such a good character certificate could trample upon the fundamental rights of millions for her own sake, we need to look closely at Indira's mental make up. On the eve of her election as Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi wrote to her son Rajiv in London, quoting Robert Frost, "How hard it is to keep from being king when it is in you and the situation". Her close friend Pupul Jayakar exclaimed, "Indira Gandhi had at last found her true vocation". Next morning Pupul noticed that "by now she was unable to contain her joy and confidence of one who sees her destiny fulfilled". But her friendship however did not fog Pupul's insightfulness: "it struck me how soon a Prime Minister loses innocence. She was already withdrawn, her mind busy working on several permutations and combinations; individuals had become expendable".
It is not sufficiently realised that she plotted to propel herself centre-stage politically. Jayakar (Indira Gandhi - a Biography, 1988), reveals that "The last 18 months of Nehru's life were a period of slow decline. On his part, the Prime Minister was turning to his daughter on virtually all the complex issues that were brought to him. "Nehru insisted that important files should be brought to him, but they were channelled through Indira. In addition, she acted as a conduit between the ministers and her father."
Jaykar continues that Indira considered the present leadership entrenched in the States and at the Centre "small men of little stature". So in the summer of 1963, the Kamraj Plan was evolved, supported by Indira on the basis of the slogan "party before post". The decision as to who should be asked to quit was left to the Prime Minister. Suddenly, on August 25, 1963, six Chief Ministers, the strongest in the country, and six Cabinet Ministers at the Centre, were asked to resign and take up Congress party work. Included in the list were Kamraj, Morarji Desai, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Jagjivan Ram, Biju Patnaik of Orissa, S.K. Patil of Maharashtra and C.B. Gupta of Uttar Pradesh. Jayakar remarks that "the whole operation had a rapier-like thrust which could not possibly have been the inspiration of a sick, weary Prime Minister; nor was it his style. It also lacked the down-to-earth homespun style of Kamraj. The strategy, the timing, the speed with which the whole operation was enacted, the lack of consultation with senior colleagues, suggests Indira's signature. The voice was the father's, but the strategy was the daughter's. What was Indira's purpose? To drain power from the political leadership in the States and concentrate it at the Centre in the hands of the Prime Minister; to clear the way for her own prime ministership?"
On Nehru's death, the Congress leadership moved fast. Indira saw her carefully crafted plot to capture Prime Ministership, suddenly slipping from her fingers and going to Lal Bahadur Shastri. She made a desperate bid to stall Shastri's election. According to Kamraj's close associate Srinivas Malliah, MP, Indira rushed a letter to Kamraj before the Working Committee was to meet, arguing that "it was not appropriate to engage in the selection of a successor to Nehru while the nation is in mourning".
Kamraj smelt a rat. Was "mourning", the true reason or was it a ruse? Kamraj's suspicion was soon confirmed when it was learnt that Krishna Menon and K.D. Malviya were behind her move. They had advised her to somehow gain time to enable street demonstrations to be organised demanding that Indira was the only rightful successor to Nehru. Kamraj told Indira that the country and the world could not be kept in anxious suspense about Nehru's successor for 13 days - the mourning period. "It is the duty of the Congress to fill the vacuum without any delay," he told her.
Her hopes crumbled. She was peeved and declined Shastri's offer to join his cabinet though she put it out, as Jayakar records, that Shastri had "offered her the Prime Ministership". According to Malliah, there was no such offer. Soon, the bureaucracy surfaced. Indira was asked to vacate the palatial Teenmurti House. She wanted to visit her children in the U.K.. But shorn of office, how to travel? She confided in the family friend, Uma Shankar Dixit, who advised her that the answer to these problems was for her to accept ministership in Shastri's Cabinet.
When approached by Dixit, Kamraj and Shastri readily offered her a cabinet berth. Dixit assured them that Indira would work in harmony with Shastri, and not lean on Menon and Malviya. But it did not take long for her to reveal her colours. Jayakar records that: "Trouble was brewing in the South over North India's attitude to Hindi, the official language. Riots broke out in South India and some young people set fire to themselves in protest. It was Indira who rushed to Madras on the first available plane and assured the leaders of the movement that she would not permit Hindi to be imposed on them. (She did not inform Shastri about her visit plan). She knew that her visit would create a flutter in the Prime Minister's Office, but she was determined to assert herself. She said that she did not look upon herself as a "mere Minister for Information and Broadcasting" but as one of the leaders of the country. `Do you think this government can survive if I resign today? I am telling you it won't. Yes, I have jumped over the Prime Minister's head and I would do it again whenever the need arises".
One figure in national life haunted her throughout. That was JP, who was held high in public esteem next only to Nehru. Her animus towards JP was in evidence long before the JP Movement in 1974. In 1970, her friend Dorothy Norman had introduced Indira to Ivan Illich's book Deschooling Society. She got the Education Minister to invite Illich. Illich accepted the invitation and expressed interest in meeting JP and Vinoba. Indira reacted sharply. In her letter of October 4, 1972, to Norman she said Vinoba Bhave has always lacked Gandhiji's vision, breadth of understanding and human sympathy. Jayaprakash is a frustrated person. Later, she told Jayakar that JP "hated" her; as "he wanted to be Prime Minister".
One of Indira's traits noted by Jayakar and many others was that "she did not trust any one". Some trait for a person wanting to play king in a country of one billion people.
The writer is former Member, Planning Commission, and former Indian High Commissioner to South Africa.
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