The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was not aware of the Constitutional provisions allowing for declaration of Emergency that was imposed in 1975 and it was Siddartha Shankar Ray who led her into the decision, says President Pranab Mukherjee.
Ironically, it was Ray, then Chief Minister of West Bengal, who also took a sharp about-turn on the authorship of the Emergency before the Shah Commission that went into ‘excesses’ during that period, according to Mukherjee.
These details are revealed by the President in his book “The Dramatic Decade: the Indira Gandhi Years” that has just been released.
“It is believed that Siddartha Shankar Ray played an important role in the decision to declare the Emergency: It was his suggestion, and Indira Gandhi acted on it. In fact, Indira Gandhi told me subsequently that she was not even aware of the Constitutional Provisions allowing for the declaration of a state of Emergency on grounds of internal disturbance, particularly since a state of Emergency had already been proclaimed as a consequence of the Indo-Pak conflict in 1971,” says Mukherjee in the book.
Interestingly, though not surprisingly, once it was declared, there were a whole host of people claiming authorship of idea of declaring the Emergency.
And, again not surprisingly, these very people took a sharp about-turn before the Shah Commission.
“Not only did they disown their involvement, they pinned all the blame on Indira Gandhi pleading their own innocence. Siddartha babu was no exception. Deposing before the Shah Commission, he ran into Indira Gandhi–draped in a crimson sari that day–in the Commission hall and tossed a sprightly remark: ‘You look pretty today’.
‘Despite your efforts,’ retorted a curt Indira Gandhi, says Mukherjee in his 321-page book that covers various chapters including the liberation of Bangladesh, JP’s offensive, the defeat in the 1977 elections, split in Congress and return to power in 1980 and after.