Emergency led to an atmosphere of fear: Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, Aug 18: The Emergency came as a surprise to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who saw an atmosphere of fear in the country during which there were many “arbitrary arrests and detentions”, says a new book on him by his daughter. ”Well, it was a surprise. There had been unrest, but nobody expected that Mrs Gandhi would go that far,” Singh’s daughter Daman Singh quotes him as saying in her book “Strictly Personal: Manmohan and Gursharan”.

The book is based on Daman’s conversations with her parents and hours spent in libraries and archives. When his daughter asked him how the Emergency affected the government servants, Singh replied, “I think there was a lot more emphasis on punctuality, on discipline. So some good things happened. But I think the atmosphere in the whole country was one of fear. There were arbitrary arrests and detentions.”

According to Singh, there was a “lot of unrest in the country, particularly due to the way the family planning programme – the sterilisation programme – was implemented in some of the northern states and in Delhi”. He felt Sanjay Gandhi was the most important “extra-constitutional authority”.

“He had a lot of influence. A lot of people who dealt with things that were of direct interest to him said that they felt the pressure,” Singh recounts. After the Morarji Desai-led Janata Party won a majority and came to power post-Emergency, a number of officers were shunted out but Singh kept his job. Initially, Singh felt Desai was not quite fond of him.