"Must Remember Darkness Of Emergency": Venkaiah Naidu On 17 Months In Jail

Mr Naidu, a veteran BJP leader who was also a Union Minister, a Rajya Sabha MP, and his party's National President, spent nearly 18 months in jail during Emergency.

Venkaiah Naidu is a former Vice President of India.

New Delhi:

The "darkness" of the Emergency imposed by the Indira Gandhi-led Congress government in June 1975 "must be known to youngsters today as they are the future of the country", former Vice President Venkaiah Naidu told NDTV Tuesday, on the 50th anniversary of that Emergency.

"I am very particular students today know what happened in the country in 1975... during the Emergency. They must know why it was imposed, how was it enforced, and how was it lifted. All of this must be known to youngsters because they are the future of the country," Mr Naidu said.

Mr Naidu, a veteran member of the ruling BJP who was also a Union Minister, a Rajya Sabha MP, and the National President of his party, spent 17-and-a-half months in jail during the Emergency.

"I was sitting in a student meeting at the time. Suddenly a message came to me, saying. 'Emergency is going to be imposed'. We were told, 'please go underground'. That was the message..."

The message, Mr Naidu explained, came from the ABVP, or the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the BJP's youth wing. "It was then not a word familiar to us..." he chuckled.

"So I skipped away from the meeting, slipped to some other town, and changed my attire. For two-and-a-half months I avoided arrest and distributed pamphlets against the Emergency."

"One day, as I was going back to Vijayawada to return a scooter belonging to my friend, the manager of a theatre in which I distributed pamphlets... he was my friend... he was telling the police, 'you are searching for Venkaiah Naidu? That fellow is innocent. He does not know anything about all this'."

Mr Naidu explained the police were waiting for him and he was swiftly arrested.

"The reason for my arrest was that I invited Jayaprakash Narayan (a prominent freedom fighter and political leader who opposed then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi) to the university. I was Chairman of the Students' Union then... he came and addressed the students, and was very impressed."

"I was then not in politics. I was arrested under MISA, or Maintenance of Internal Security Act."

MISA was a controversial law passed by the then union government giving Mrs Gandhi and law enforcement agencies broad powers to detain individuals infinitely and without warrants.

"As a joke we used to call it 'Maintenance of Indira Security Act'," he smiled.

Earlier today Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the BJP's charge and posted on X to mark the 25th anniversary of Emergency being declared, and took a sharp swipe at the Congress on this topic.

"Just to cling on to power, the then Congress government disregarded every democratic principle and made the nation into a jail. Any person who disagreed with the Congress was tortured and harassed. Socially regressive policies were unleashed to target the weakest sections," he said.

READ | PM Leads BJP's Emergency Offensive To Counter INDIA's Narrative

The Prime Minister has referred to the Emergency multiple times this week, as the first session of the new Lok Sabha gets underway and the BJP and Congress prepare for a fierce squabble over various issues, including leaked exam papers for the UGC-NET and NEET-UG competitive tests.

On Tuesday too Mr Modi attacked the Congress on this subject, calling the Emergency a "black spot" on the history of India's democracy.

The PM's remarks drew a sharp response from Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, who said Mr Modi spoke about a 50-year-old period but disregard the last decade's "undeclared Emergency".

READ | PM's 'Emergency' Jab At Congress, M Kharge's NEET Reply

The BJP eased to a third consecutive term after the April-May-June general election on the back of a strong show by National Democratic Alliance partners.

The BJP won only 240 seats - 32 short of majority - but 53 from the NDA, including 28 from Chandrababu Naidu's TDP and Nitish Kumar's JDU, ensured a third straight win for Mr Modi's party.

NDTV is now available on WhatsApp channels. Click on the link to get all the latest updates from NDTV on your chat.