Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said the Emergency imposed by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was a "mistake" but sought to differentiate the situation in 1975 and now in terms of "capture of democratic institutions".
In an online conversation with Cornell University Professor of Economics and chief economic advisor to the Manmohan Sigh government Kaushik Basu, Mr Gandhi said what happened in 1975 was "wrong" but it was fundamentally different from the present where, he alleged, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has "penetrated every institutions including judiciary, bureaucracy, election commission and the press".
Discussing democracy, Mr Gandhi claimed "democracy was not just eroding but it has been a strangled" ever since the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014.
"I think that was a mistake. Absolutely, that was a mistake. And my grandmother (Indira Gandhi) said as much," Mr. Gandhi said in response to a question on imposition on the Emergency .
Also read: Revisiting the days of Emergency
"The Congress party at no point attempted to capture India’s institutional framework and frankly, the Congress party does not even have that capability. Our design does not allow us that and even if we want, we cannot do it," he added.
The Congress leader said that if the Congress manages to defeat the BJP in an election, it is not going to "get rid of their people in the institutional structure".
Recalling a conversation with former Congress Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Kamal Nath before his government collapsed, he said Mr Nath told him that senior bureaucrats in his government would not listen to him as they were RSS people and would not do things they were asked to do. "So, it is fundamentally different what is going on," he said.
Asked about internal democracy within the Congress, Mr Gandhi said he is the one who pushed for elections in the party at the Youth Congress and NSUI levels but was "attacked" by his own party leaders.
He also wondered why nobody asked questions on lack internal democracy in the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party or the Samajwadi Party (SP) and focused only on the Congress.
"There's a reason. We are an ideological party and it is the ideology of the Constitution. Therefore, it is more important for us to be democratic," he said.
Asked about the death of his father and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991, he said he knew that his "father was was walking towards his death because he had taken on big forces".
"It was very painful… but it made me understand violence,"he said in a reflective mood.
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