While the Eknath Shinde-BJP alliance government in Maharashtra has recently announced the reinstatement of a pension plan for political activists imprisoned during the emergency imposed by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi from 1975 to 1977, the state Congress criticized the decision, asking how CM Shinde, the leader of the rebel faction Could Sena overturn the decision, which the party claimed was against the ideology of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, who had openly supported the emergency.
The program was initially launched by the former BJP-Shiv Sena government led by Devendra Fadnavis in 2018. It was scrapped in 2020 by the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition government led by Uddhav Thackeray, which included the Congress and the NCP as partners in addition to the Sena. In the new government led by Shinde, Fadnavis is the deputy CM even though the BJP is the main alliance partner.
Spokesman for the Mumbai Congress unit, Sachin Sawant, said: “This pension scheme is purely for RSS. What’s more unfortunate is that CM Shinde, who says he’s carrying forward the legacy of the late Sena founder Bal Thackeray, was mum on the decision. It is well known that Thackeray supported the emergency. When you say you’re advancing Thackeray’s legacy, how can you allow that? Isn’t that contradictory?
In 1975, just before Indira Gandhi declared an emergency in the country, there was a meeting between Gandhi, her son Sanjay Gandhi and Thackeray. During the meeting, which discussed various issues, Thackeray gave his support to Gandhi for his emergency move plan. The Sena founder had then also said that “if it makes the country more disciplined, then urgency is needed” and he will support the same.
The Sena would then have been on the list of several political parties and organisations, including the left and the RSS, which were to be banned by the Gandhi-led dispensation after the imposition of the emergency in the country, and Thackeray could also have been stopped. It was later alleged by many that at their meeting, Thackeray made a deal with Gandhi and had the Sena’s name removed from the list of parties that would be banned. Many even claimed that Thackeray gave his support to Gandhi’s drastic measure to avoid arrest like many opposition leaders and to prevent a government crackdown on his party and his publication “Marmik”.
Thackeray and the Sena had subsequently sought to explain that the former had supported the emergency because there was then a need to “ensure discipline” in the country and was “necessary” when the leaders of the opposition parties that formed the Janata Party were making statements “hostile” to the interests of the country.
The Sena has since maintained that Thackeray’s decision was in the “national interest”. “But that did not mean that he (Thackeray) then supported the crackdown on opposition parties and the press,” a Sena official said. “He had said it many times when speaking to the media and at his rallies that he had told Gandhi during their meeting that if the decision to impose the emergency is in the national interest, then he supports it. , but if it is to save the government or to stay in power, he condemns it.
The Sena executive also said that despite Thackeray’s support for the emergency, his printing press for Marmik’s publication was also sealed by the then-waiver. “So it was not like Thackeray gave in under any pressure or action. Thackeray would do anything for the country and Maharashtra,” he claimed.
Sena MLA Deepak Kesarkar, who is now the spokesperson for the party faction led by Shinde, said, “Congress should not be talking about Thackeray. He had supported the emergency, not Congress or Indira Gandhi. In fact, he said he would never go with Congress.
Kesarkar claimed that Thackeray’s support for the emergency was “issue-based” and was “not party or personality specific”.
“During this period, there was a need for discipline in the country because the opposition leaders had made several reprehensible statements which would have damaged the unity and democracy of the country. It was completely issue-based,” he said.