How Subramanian Swamy became a headache for the Indira Gandhi regime during Emergency

Subramanian Swamy was among the politicians who actively participated in the movement against Indira Gandhi during the Emergency

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy is known for his outspoken nature, which many find a bit difficult to digest. The Rajya Sabha MP’s statements not only cause discomfort to the opposition, but even his own party leaders are often taken aback by his barbs. The Harvard alumnus is known to have actively participated in the resistance movement during the Indira Gandhi-imposed Emergency. While several activists were being jailed for raising their voices against the Congress government’s authoritarianism, Swamy was able to bluff the authorities despite a warrant issued against him. Here we will tell you how the fiery BJP leader pulled off such a fantastic act.

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Indira Gandhi rode to power in the 1971 Lok Sabha elections on the plank of a pro-poor development agenda. Her slogan of Garibi Hatao had clicked with the masses and was instrumental to her increasing popularity. After his stint as a professor at the Harvard University, Swamy returned to India and began teaching in IIT-Delhi. It is said that his suggestion to Indira Gandhi of scrapping the Five-Year plan did not go down well with her, after which she got him sacked from his position at IIT. After losing his job, Swamy came in contact with RSS leader Nanaji Deshmukh and was deeply influenced by him. He joined the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and entered Parliament for the first time in 1974.

On the midnight of June 25, 1975, President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed proclaimed the state of Emergency under Article 352 of the Constitution. The electricity supplies to newspaper offices were snapped and arrest orders for opposition leaders issued. In an address to the nation through All India Radio, then prime minister Indira Gandhi informed the listeners about the reason behind the decision and urged people not to panic. Several leaders like Jayaprakash Narayan, Morarji Desai, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Chaudhary Charan Singh were arrested.

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During the Emergency, the government had banned the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and several volunteers were detained under Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) and Defence of India Rules (DIR). With an arrest warrant issued against him, Swamy frequently escaped to Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. Somehow, he managed to sneak into the US and stayed there for some time. During his stay in the US, Swamy came to know that he was about to lose his Rajya Sabha seat. According to rules, an MP automatically forfeits the membership of the House if he/she remains absent for 60 days without permission.

Swamy’s sister-in-law and Indian Express’s Contributing Editor Coomi Kapoor wrote in her book The Emergency: A Personal History that the Jana Sangh leader planned to make an appearance in Parliament. In executing such a risky act, a lot of preparation went down with his wife, Roxna, even having conducted several recces to see how many steps it took to walk from the building to the exit gate of the compound. She had to locate the most convenient spot right next to Parliament to park their car, without attracting any attention.

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On August 10, 1976, Subramanian Swamy arrived in Parliament dressed in white khadi kurta and dhoti. He was greeted by the security guards who might have assumed that the Jana Sangh MP had signed the government’s Twenty Point Programme. He signed the attendance register and walked into the House with CPI MP Indrajit Gupta. He came in when obituary references were being read out in the Rajya Sabha.

“Suddenly Swamy stood up and raised a point of order, reminding Rajya Sabha chairperson and Vice President BD Jatti, that he had not included democracy in the list of recent deaths. There was a stunned silence. Minister of State for Home Affairs, Om Mehta, dived under a desk, fearing that Swamy might be having a bomb in his hand. Jatti, taken aback, stated indignantly,”There is no point of order. He then asked the MPs to stand in silence for two minutes as a respect for MPs who had passed away, instead of asking the marshals to arrest Swamy. Taking advantage of the situation, Swamy announced that he was staging a walkout,” Kapoor wrote in her book.

From Parliament, Swamy then travelled to Mathura and reached Mumbai via Nagpur. There, he was greeted by the RSS pracharaks who were overjoyed by his act. An embarrassed government had no option but to put a price on his head. Proceedings were initiated by Parliament against him, alleging that Swamy had falsely claimed dearness and travel allowances by having someone forge his signature. He was expelled from Parliament on this pretext. A total of 18 cases including sedition were registered against Swamy.

Despite the huge manpower, the police were unable to trace Swamy who was in India. Later, he travelled to Nepal and then to the US.

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