10 Leaders Who Emerged Strong From Indira Gandhi's Emergency

During the Emergency, several leaders, including Jayaprakash Narayan and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, raised their voices against Indira Gandhi.

10 Leaders Who Emerged Strong From Indira Gandhi's Emergency

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was imprisoned for several months.

In what was a late All India Radio broadcast on June 25, 1975, Indira Gandhi, the then-Indian Prime Minister, announced that the President had proclaimed Emergency. The decision to impose Emergency came shortly after Supreme Court granted a conditional stay on the Allahabad High Court verdict, declaring Ms Gandhi's election to the lower house of the Parliament null and void. She was also asked to distance herself from parliamentary proceedings.

During what would arguably be the toughest 21 months of Emergency, multiple leaders raised their voices against Ms Gandhi and her supporters. Their efforts finally put Indian democracy back on the rails in March 1977.

Here's a look at 10 key leaders who braved the hardships and emerged strong from the Emergency period:

1. Jayaprakash Narayan

Popularly known as 'Lok Nayak' (the people's hero), Jayaprakash Narayan called for Sampoorna Kranti, a total revolution, in the political system after the High Court found Indira Gandhi guilty of electoral malpractices. He never contested an election but received tremendous support from the people when he led the fight against the Emergency. A major highlight was the Ramlila Ground rally in the national capital that shook Ms Gandhi.

2. Morarji Desai

In the aftermath of the Emergency, the Janata Party came to power during the 1977 elections. As Mr Desai became the next Prime Minister, he reportedly overturned a slew of directives issued by Ms Gandhi, further bringing in major constitutional amendments to make it harder for Emergency to be declared in future again.

3. Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Most of the Opposition leaders were jailed during the Emergency. Among them was Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was imprisoned for several months. During this time, he criticised Ms Gandhi's decision to impose Emergency through his poems. In the Janata Party government, Mr Vajpayee, who would later become the country's Prime Minister, served as the Foreign Minister of India.

4. LK Advani

One of the co-founders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), LK Advani was also among those imprisoned during the Emergency. Addressing the atmosphere of fear during the time, Advani's words on how media operated are etched in memory. "When asked to bend, they chose to crawl," he had famously remarked. Mr Advani would later serve as India's Deputy Prime Minister.

5. George Fernandes

Stories of George Fernandes disguising himself as a local fisherman, a Sikh or even as a Sadhu to evade arrests during the Emergency period are known by one and all. He travelled extensively, receiving major support for resistance against Ms Gandhi's rule. Though he was eventually arrested, Mr Fernandes later contested the general elections from jail and won the Muzaffarpur seat in Bihar by a massive margin.

6. Lalu Prasad Yadav

At a young age, Lalu Prasad Yadav took part in the JP movement and went on to gain enough prominence to emerge as an important leader in the post-emergency era. He has served as the Chief Minister of Bihar and was also the Railway Minister during the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance era.

7. Mulayam Singh Yadav

Fondly known as ‘Netaji' among party workers and followers, Mulayam Singh Yadav was also jailed during the Emergency period. Later, he went on to become one of the most prominent leaders of Uttar Pradesh and served as state Chief Minister thrice. After his demise in October 2022, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to him, calling him a "key soldier for democracy during the Emergency."

8. Sharad Yadav

A seven-term Lok Sabha and four-term Rajya Sabha member, Sharad Yadav is a former Union Minister. He was also among key leaders who opposed Ms Gandhi's Emergency tooth and nail. He was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1974 from Madhya Pradesh's Jabalpur. Mr Yadav also played a crucial role in the implementation of the Mandal Commission recommendations.

9. Ram Vilas Paswan

Ram Vilas Paswan, who would later emerge as one of the key leaders in Bihar politics, was jailed during the 1975 Emergency. Two years later, during the 1977 General Elections, Mr Paswan registered a landslide victory in the Hajipur Lok Sabha seat.

10. Raj Narain

Remembered as the biggest critic of ex-PM Indira Gandhi, Raj Narain was also arrested and imprisoned during the Emergency period. After losing to Ms Gandhi in Uttar Pradesh's Raebareli seat during the 1971 elections, Mr Narain challenged her election alleging electoral malpractices as well as violation of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. Post the Emergency, he went on to defeat Ms Gandhi from the same seat in the 1977 elections.