The untold story of how PM Modi spent his days during the emergency!

The Emergency – by far the darkest days in independent India’s history. A time when the basic rights of people were trampled into non-existence under the whims of one person’s political desires.

What led to the Emergency

Indira Gandhi’s adherence to a Soviet-style economic model along with a failed monsoon in 1972 led to a severe agricultural crisis. This was the starting of what eventually led to the imposition of the Emergency.

In protest to the centre’s failures to keep food prices in check, nation-wide uprisings began. The first in Gujarat, & the second in Bihar under Jayaprakash Narayan. There was another reason that proved to be crucial in Indira imposing the Emergency. Raj Narain, who had lost to Indira in Rai Bareli in the 1971 Lok Sabha Election, lodged a formal complaint against her alleging electoral irregularities. He claimed that Indira had used one of her civil servants from Delhi to run her campaign which was strictly forbidden. The Allahabad High Court declared Indira’s 1971 election to the Parliament null & void & banned her from holding any public office for six years. All this led to Indira declaring an Emergency on the night of 25 June 1975.

Narendra Modi’s Fight Against Dictatorship

It was only the RSS that had the organizational setup & mechanism to thwart the dictatorial power-hungry ambitions of Indira Gandhi. A large number of pracharaks were involved in restoring democracy, one among them was Narendra Modi.

Congress banned the RSS soon after the emergency was imposed. Then, senior RSS leader Keshav rao Deshmukh was arrested in Gujarat. Narendra Modi was supposed to work with him as per the plan but that couldn’t happen. The moment Narendra Modi realized that Keshavrao was arrested, he escorted another senior RSS man Nathalal Jagda to a safe place riding him on a scooter.

Narendra Modi realized that Keshav rao Deshmukhhad some important documents & their retrieval was necessary to determine the future course of action. But Deshmukh was in police custody making it almost impossible to retrieve the documents. But Modi wasn’t going to accept defeat. He took the help of once Swayamsevak sister from Maninagar. As per plan, this lady went to police station to meet Deshmukh to distract attention &meanwhile Modi retrieved the documents from police station.

The press was also censored by Indira Gandhi besides prominent political opponents being imprisoned. Dissemination of information was critical but it had become nearly impossible. As usual, Modi had a plan. Literature containing information about constitution, law, excesses of Congress govt. was put on trains going from Gujarat to other states. It was a risky task since Railway Police force was instructed to shoot suspicious people. But the technique worked out well.

Police was cracking down on the RSS & its activities which meant Modi had to carry out his activities underground. Confidential meetings were organized in Maninagar by Modi & he performed the task impeccably.During this period, he met Prabhudas Patwari& it was at his residence that Modi met George Fernandes who was also involved in movement against the emergency.

George Fernandez who had disguised as a Muslim met Modi& explained his plan to him. It was at this time that Modi was instrumental in the meeting of Nanaji Deshmukh with that of George Fernandez. During the meeting with Modi & Nanaji, Fernandez expressed his plan to launch an armed struggle against the excesses of Indira Gandhi but Nanaji & Modi categorically declined for this plan. They were of the view that theirs will be a purely non-violent struggle no matter how violent the Indira regime can get.

Narendra Modi was also involved in supplying information to leaders who were imprisoned by the government. He was master of disguise, & despite there being a risk of getting arrested he used various disguises &successfully supplied crucial information to leaders in jail.

One aspect that led to Indira revoking the Emergency was the fear that her image was getting tarnished in the West as that of a dictator. Narendra Modi had a huge role to play in this as well as he was responsible for sending information to Indians abroad about the situation in India.

The Emergency truly brought out the magnificent organisational skills that Narendra Modi possessed. He worked selflessly – at times at risk of his own life – to save democracy. He ensured that none of the pracharaks faced any financial problems.

Those who argue that he has dictatorial tendencies, I have only one thing to say to them – A person who has lived through Emergency, who has seen people around him become victims of oppression, & who has fought against it to help the nation emerge from it can NEVER act in a dictatorial manner!

Vinayak Jain**