Emergency: Something is going to happen…when after the defeat of Indira Gandhi the new government started fearing a coup

Ananya Shroff
4 Min Read

New Delhi: In the general elections held after the Emergency, the public rejected the Congress. Indira Gandhi also lost the elections. The Janata Party and its allies won a landslide victory. Indira feared that the government could take action against her family and especially Sanjay Gandhi. But the new government also had similar apprehensions. At one point, the Janata Party even began to feel that Indira's loyalists in the corridors of power could stage a coup.

The secret of the boxes
Within hours of Indira Gandhi's defeat, VV Nagarkar, Joint Director of the Intelligence Bureau in Delhi, received information that two boxes full of documents had been sent from his residence at 1, Safdarjung Road to a farm house in Chhattarpur, to be buried in the ground. Acting on Nagarkar's information, George Fernandes sent his political secretary Ravi Nair to investigate. Nair and a DCP of the IB went to the farm house. They found nothing there. A second investigation was conducted a month later. Then a gardener told Ravi that the boxes had been dug out.

Presidential obstruction
Soon after the Janata Party government was formed, the cabinet, at the behest of Home Minister Charan Singh, decided to dismiss the Congress governments in nine states. The government believed that with Indira's defeat, the Congress governments in these states had also lost the mandate. The proposal was sent to Acting President BD Jatti. But Jatti stalled the proposal not once but twice. On 29 April 1977, he told the government that he needed more time to think over the matter. This put the Centre in a dilemma.

The concerns of ministers
The President's refusal to sign would have led to a constitutional crisis. A worried Prime Minister Morarji Desai called a Cabinet meeting on 30 April 1977. The ministers' nervousness was palpable. They were worried about what the Acting President might do. They knew that Jatti was loyal to Indira Gandhi. However, no minister said so explicitly and the question was not asked: could Jatti, as supreme commander of the armed forces, call in the army and topple the new government?

Life Assurance
In that cabinet meeting, Defence Minister Jagjivan Ram tried to allay the fears of his fellow ministers. He said that during the Emergency, the then Defence Minister Bansilal had met the then Army Chief and asked him to support the Emergency. But the Army Chief had refused. Jagjivan Ram told the cabinet that the Army should not be doubted.

'Something is going to happen' The same night George Fernandes again received a call from IB officer Nagarkar, warning him, 'Something is going to happen.' Suspicions of a coup began to grow again. The suspicion grew further when George received a call from Madhu Limaye shortly afterwards. He too was alerted. George Fernandes immediately sent his political secretary Ravi Nair to survey the high-security areas of New Delhi. Nair borrowed a two-wheeler and set out to survey Lutyens. He found nothing unusual anywhere near the Army Headquarters, All India Radio or the Parliament House. On his return he told George Fernandes that everything was fine.

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