WILL INDIA GET A NEW JP?

YB WEB DESK. Dated: 11/30/2019 11:25:59 AM


ABHISHEK RAJA Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP returned to power in 2019 with a bigger majority than they got in 2014. Therefore, it can safely be said that Modi is currently the most popular leader in India. But history has some parallels in this. The late Indira Gandhi was considered one of the most popular and able leaders of independent India, yet her tenure was full of turmoil. The late Jai Prakash Narayan (JP) started a revolution against her which paved the way for Emergency. The current events in the country are similar to what happened with Indira in 1971-1977 and could well spark off a movement against the Government. Economic context: During the 1971 elections, the Congress had given the slogan of “garibi hatao”. However, the social and economic conditions in the country did not improve much after 1971-72. The Bangladesh crisis had put a heavy strain on India’s economy and this was followed by a war with Pakistan. After the war, the US Government stopped all aid to India and prices increased by 23 per cent in 1973 and 30 per cent in 1974. Industrial growth was low and unemployment was very high, particularly in rural areas. The country is going through a similar situation now and the current unemployment rate is the highest ever seen in the last 45 years. Data published by the Government on the index of eight core industries reveals the sad state of the economy. Real estate is in negative growth and the auto industry, too, has reached a level where only structural reforms can save it. The telecom industry is also in the red and so is the aviation sector. The banking sector and the Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFC) have suffered huge losses as their NPAs have been growing exponentially. A report from the National Statistical Office (NSO) shows that average consumer spending has declined for the first time in 40 years. So, there are many similarities with the economic conditions prevailing in the pre-Emergency era. Historically, the unemployed youth start questioning the Government and when there are no satisfactory answers, they launch a movement to protest against these debilitating problems. India would be witnessing this in a couple of years. National political scenario: Indira enjoyed the same unmatched popularity in those days as Modi does now. The party became insignificant and elections were won or lost on the steam of the top leader. But those days saw the narrative that leaders opposing Indira were against the progress of the country, just as it is now during the Modi regime. Like Indira, Modi also has near-absolute control over the Government as well as a huge majority in Parliament and the BJP is not dependent on any supporting party. Student agitations: Chimanbhai Patel became the Chief Minister of Gujarat in July 1973. In December 1973, students of LD College of Engineering, Ahmedabad went on a strike in protest against a 20 per cent hike in hostel food fees. A similar strike in January 1974 at Gujarat University resulted in clashes between the police and students. Ultimately the students, lawyers and professors formed a committee, later known as the Nav Nirman Yuvak Samiti, to voice their grievances. They demanded Patel’s resignation and as the agitations spread in the State, Indira asked him to resign, which he did. This movement is popularly known as the Nav Nirman Andolan which was later fought under the leadership of JP. Today, we are witnessing many student agitations that are mostly related to fee hikes in IITs, Ayurveda medical colleges in Uttarakhand and Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University. Students are also saying that such hikes are not acceptable as they lack clarity regarding their future due to the major job crisis in the country. Naxalite of the 70s and today’s urban Naxalites: In the 70s, the “peasant movement”, which started in West Bengal, spread to several States and came to be referred broadly as the “Naxalite movement”. Later they broke off from the CPI (M) and formed a new party, Communist Party (Marxist- Leninist). It argued that democracy in India was a sham and decided to adopt a strategy of protracted guerrilla warfare in order to lead a revolution. The “Naxalite movement” used force to snatch land from rich landowners and give it to the poor and the landless. Its supporters advocated the use of violent means to achieve their political goals. In spite of the use of preventive detention and other strong measures adopted by the West Bengal Government run by the Congress, the Naxalite movement did not end. In later years, it spread to many parts of the country. JP’s total revolution: JP was a staunch Gandhian, freedom fighter and a veteran socialist, but was unhappy with where the country was headed during Indira’s regime. The people associated with the Nav Nirman Andolan movement of Gujarat asked JP to lead a peaceful agitation, which gathered support. Leaders of almost all political parties fought under his leadership. Millions of protesters, including students and the common man, inspired by JP left colleges and jobs to join the movement. JP travelled all over India to mobilise the masses against the Congress by capturing people’s sentiments through anticorruption speeches. Consequently, on June 12, 1975, the Allahabad High Court convicted Indira for election malpractices and declared her election null and void, which was upheld by the Supreme Court on June 24, 1975. On June 25, JP announced a nation-wide movement demanding Indira’s resignation and internal Emergency was imposed on June 25. Most of the top Opposition leaders like JP, Morarji Desai, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani were arrested. The Press was censored and all news articles had to be sent to the Government for approval before publishing. Today, we are seeing the same kind of censorship. We have witnessed TV journalists losing their jobs for criticising the Government and most of them have been unable to find new ones. They are currently airing their views through social media. We have also seen a new sort of journalism where TV debate anchors are asking questions meant for the Government from the Opposition. Newspapers are doing their jobs far better than TV as far as true journalism is concerned. In Srinagar recently, scribes protested against the lockdown and lack of internet in the Valley. The Government today keeps a close watch not only on newspaper and TV media but also on various social media platforms.

 

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