The Rajasthan government on Monday decided to withdraw the allowances being given to those detained under MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act) during the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi, saying they were not freedom fighters.
At a meeting of the state cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, the government also reversed its decision to hold direct election for the posts of mayors and chairpersons in corporations and municipalities.
When the Gehlot-led Congress came to power last year, it had introduced direct elections.
The decision to discontinue pension, medical assistance and other benefits to MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act) and Defence of India Rules (DIR) Act detainees in the state will save Rs 40 crore annually, according to a press release issued later.
"The cabinet has taken a decision for indirect election of mayor and chairperson. Ward councilors will now elect them," state Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shanti Dhariwal told reporters after the meeting.
First direct elections of the heads of civic bodies were held in 2009 when the Congress was in power but in 2014, then BJP government changed the mode of their election to indirect.
"A mayor or chairperson elected by public usually ignores councilors and development works get affected. When a directly elected mayor or chairperson is from one party and the majority in the corporation or municipality is of the other party, it also stalls development," he said.
Accusing the BJP of creating an atmosphere of "hate and violence", Mr Dhariwal said it was necessary to return to the old mode of indirect elections to counter BJP's "divisive policies".
"The BJP is creating the atmosphere of hate, violence and fear. Sedition charges are being levelled on intellectuals and in same way, Congressmen, businessmen and common people are troubled. The economy is being affected and efforts are made to suppress people''s voice. In view of such scenario, conducting direct elections will be against people''s wishes," the minister said.
He said in indirect elections, people can question councilor as they chose the mayor.
"When last time direct election of mayor happened in Jaipur, the board had the majority of BJP and the mayor was of Congress. There used to be disagreement, which affected development," he said while referring to the 2009 election.
"The decision has been taken after looking to the results of 2009 municipal elections, and that is why we did not protest when the BJP government changed it to indirect as it was known that direct elections had lacunas," he added.
On doing away with the allowances being given to those detained under MISA during the Emergency, he said, "We do not consider MISA detainees as freedom fighters".
The MISA detainees were getting a pension of Rs 20,000 per month. It was increased from Rs 12,000 to Rs 20,000 per month by previous BJP government in July 2018.
The cabinet also took other decisions including TSP (tribal sub plan) reservation benefit to a woman from non-TSP area if she marries to a man of TSP area.
Opposition BJP said the government has taken a U-turn on its own decision as it was under fear ahead of the local bodies'' elections which are due next month "because of a wave of patriotism" under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"The government has taken a U-turn on the election manifesto, where the Congress had promised to hold direct elections. The Congress was hoping that their caste politics will give them opportunity but after abrogation of Article 370, the wave of patriotism again started in the country under PM Modi's leadership," BJP state president Satish Poonia said.
BJP MLA and former education minister Vasudev Devnani said the decision to discontinue pension to MISA detainees was like "celebrating the Emergency".
"The state government has stopped the pension to MISA detainees. It is like celebrating the emergency. Former prime minister Indira Gandhi had sent lakhs of people behind bars under MISA after the Emergency and to prove that right, the Congress government in the state is discontinuing their pension," Mr Devnani said.
BJP MLA Kalicharan Saraf said the reversal of the decision on the mode of election for mayor and chairperson of corporation and municipalities showed that Congress has "admitted its defeat" even before the elections.
"The government has betrayed people. It had promised loan waiver, unemployment allowances etc but people have understood that it has only cheated them. The law and order situation has deteriorated in the state but the government is not bothered about it," Mr Saraf said at the party office.