Title- Indira Gandhi, the Emergency and Indian Democracy
Indira Gandhi is remembered for the Emergency more than anything else. This book, written by P.N.Dhar, who spent almost seven years working under her, tries to give the backstory and details about the event. A lot is written about the East Pakistan crisis, the denial of the economic aid to India by the United States, her relationships with the leaders of the neighbouring countries, the Emergency, her equations with Indian leaders, her relationship with Sanjay Gandhi and the Simla Agreement.
I read this book out of curiosity and I must confess that I was not entirely disappointed. Though about 40% of the book is filled with assumptions which aim to validate or justify Mrs.Gandhi’s actions that led to the declaration of Emergency.
Mrs.Gandhi had to come into the larger picture of Indian Politics after the death of her father, Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru. She was initially dismissed as a powerless puppet (gunghi gudiya) by her own colleagues in the party and also her political opponents. How she rose to power within and outside her party, how she consolidates power in the country and how she asserts herself in the middle of the dominant patriarchy in the Indian political scene is described in this book.
Her relationship with Jay Prakash Narayan who was another prominent person during her days as the Prime Minister is also recorded in detail.
The Emergency was a very dark period in Indian history, there are no two ways about it. The way the author has tried to take a softer stand regarding that era made me a little uncomfortable. P.N.Dhar has tried to give a variety of reasons ranging from the ‘need to discipline the country’ to ‘ her decision being inevitable given the situation in the country in relation to neighbors, political opponents, and the judiciary’ for the imposition of the Emergency. If I may add, I understood then that that was the precise phase when Indian Judiciary lost much of its teeth. I did wonder how it would have been now, had the Judiciary been as powerful as it was back then.
Her perception and apprehension about her own son, Sanjay Gandhi is also covered quite in detail, especially his tyranny and waywardness. That portion is very interesting to read, to be honest.
I found this book to be heavily biased in favour of Mrs.Gandhi and her rule. Something that I had expected, but this was a bit beyond what I had imagined. I would suggest reading this book if you don’t have better books in stock to give information about the dark era.