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Run-up to the Emergency

S.P. Singh

By B.N. Tandon
Konark Publishers, 2006, pp. 452, Rs. 650.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 2 February 2007

The book under review is the second part of the two-volume publication on the emergency period (1975-1977), but it covers only the 21-month period (November 1, 1974 to July 24, 1976) with focus on the run-up to the point when the democratic set-up was demolished and a loose autocratic rule put in place which had neither any purpose nor any well-defined ideas to defend the collapse of democracy. It has one introduction for both volumes. The first volume gives the blow-by-blow account of the events between November 1974 to august 1975 and the second one up to July 1976 that was two months into the emergency when the author quit the job. The book is not necessarily a continuing story of a tragedy with the Shakespearean sequence of ambition, hubris and fall but the honest intention which radiates through the pages, one is inclined to believe what the author says. Plenty of names of politicians, bureaucrats and others, their decisions and relations to the prime minister have been discussed in detail although some of them are quite unrelated to the main story. The writer’s personal experiences with many politicians and bureaucrats also at times don’t fit in the structure of the story.   However, the book gives a close view of the functioning of the power game and the palace intrigues. And, how Sanjay Gandhi took over power and his mother became dependent on his wishes to set up a car company. And, how a close coteries ruled the country independent of constitutional constraints. These are the details of historical values because the author was the witness to all these events which he describes truthfully. The highpoint of book was reached when President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed signed the proclamation of emergency at midnight on July 25, 1975 and the events following the declaration specially the arrests of leaders and control on the press. (This is described in the first volume).   The structure of the book is bureaucratic; the author being an IAS officer in the PMO office, had a grandstand view of the drama as it unfolded itself ruthlessly. The book is the translation from Hindi into English done by T.C.A.S. Raghavan, an eminent journalist, who like the author has also the heightened sensitivities for morality in politics and no less passion for detail and elegance of language. And, that makes the book quite, readable though details at time are upsetting.   The writer’s claim ...

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