New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has said that the Emergency that was imposed by former prime minister Indira Gandhi a “mistake”, adding that what happened during that period was “wrong”, but it was fundamentally different from the current scenario as the Congress at no point attempted to capture the country’s institutional framework.

In a conversation with Kaushik Basu, a professor at the Cornell University in the US and India’s former chief economic advisor, Rahul Gandhi said he is all for internal democracy in the Congress, which fought for India’s independence, gave the country its Constitution and stood for equality.

Asked about his views on the Emergency, he said, “I think that was a mistake. Absolutely, that was a mistake. And my grandmother (Indira Gandhi) said as much.” 

Asked about Indira Gandhi announcing elections at the end of the Emergency and Pranab Mukherjee telling Basu later that she did so as she thought she might lose and wanted to put that to test, the former Congress chief said there is a fundamental difference between what happened during the Emergency, which “was wrong”, and what is happening in the country now.

“The Congress party at no point attempted to capture India’s institutional framework and frankly, the Congress party does not even have that capability. Our design does not allow us that and even if we want, we cannot do it,” he said.

Gandhi alleged that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is doing something “fundamentally different” and filling up the institutions of the country with its people, adding “So, even if we defeat the BJP in the election, we are not going to get rid of their people in the institutional structure.” 

Gandhi recalled a conversation with former Congress chief minister of Madhya Pradesh Kamal Nath before his government was overthrown. Nath told him that senior bureaucrats in his government would not listen to him as they were RSS people and would not do something that they were asked to do. “So, it is fundamentally different what is going on,” he said.

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The Emergency was imposed by Indira Gandhi for a 21-month period from 1975 to 1977 when curbs were imposed on the fundamental rights of citizens.

On internal democracy within the Congress, Gandhi said he is the one who pushed for elections in the party at the Youth Congress and NSUI levels but was criticised and attacked by his own party leaders.

He wondered why nobody raises questions on why there is no internal democracy in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) and said such questions are asked about the Congress as it is an “ideological party” and has the ideology of the Constitution. “Therefore, it is more important for us to be democratic,” he said.

Asked about how he felt about the death of his father, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, in May 1991, Rahul said, “it made me understand violence”. Gandhi said he saw his father’s death coming as he was fighting many forces at the time. 

Congress has to change to fight the arrogance of BJP: Rahul 

Congress has to change and be humble to fight the arrogance of the BJP, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Tuesday, asserting that after 2014 the opposition is fighting the battle for India and not for getting power.

In a conversation with Kaushik Basu, Gandhi said the Congress party has to open itself to the people and submit itself to them, bringing together the resistance against the Modi government.

Asked what is his vision for the Congress in the face of recent electoral defeats, the former Congress chief said, “Gather the resistance. Bring together the resistance. There is the resistance across all fronts, many different types of people, many different types of ideas and the Congress party has to have the humility, flexibility and respect to absorb them.”

“It has to change itself, it has to transform itself to playing that role. Remember when we started the Congress party, it was basically bringing together the resistance, we used to call it passive resistance in those days because we are not into the violent kind of resistance, we still are not, so we will never do anything violently, anything aggressively, anything nastily, all polite, all nice, but we will bring together India’s power,” he asserted.

Gandhi said the Congress has to open itself to the Indian people and submit itself to them going forward, adding “It has to be humble because it is fighting arrogance. So that is what the Congress party has to do. It is not an easy transformation, it is a difficult transformation.” 

He said a lot of people are not happy with what is going on in the country currently and the Congress has to carry all these forces together, adding “I actually believe that not just the Congress party, the opposition after 2014 is no longer fighting for power, we are fighting now for India. For me we are now fighting a battle for India.”

“Before 2014, we were fighting elections to win elections, we were fighting for power, now that game has changed because the rules now have completely changed. We don’t have the institutions to protect us,” he alleged.

Gandhi said India essentially was about a “negotiation” in which India decided that it is going to have a free and fair fight for power and that is what happened till 2014.

“You mentioned that there was the brief period of Emergency where the Congress party was wrong, I am the first to say it. But that changed in 2014 (with the Modi government coming to power). That is not happening anymore. There is no free fight for power in India anymore which means now we have to fight for India,” he said.

(With Agency Input)

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