On the eve of 40th anniversary of imposition of the Emergency, government today decided to set up a national memorial for socialist icon Jai Prakash Narayan in his birthplace in Bihar where assembly polls are likely this September-October.
Announcing a number of decisions of the government to honour JP, who had speareaded the fight against the Emergency, Home Minister Rajnath Singh recalled how democratic institutions were "muzzled" during the Emergency as he lauded the contribution of the socialist leader in uniting the country against the "black chapter" of Indian history.
Singh at the same time rejected contentions that the decision on JP is aimed reaping political dividends in Bihar polls, saying that honouring the contributions made by such great persons and icons should not be seen from the prism of politics.
"This should not be linked with political gains or losses," the Home Minister insisted.
BJP is facing a tough electoral battle in Bihar after the coming together of arch rival Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar.
Briefing the media along with Singh, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who hails from Bihar and had participated in the JP movement, targetted those who "did nothing" for the socialist leader in the last 10 years despite being associated with the leader, a dig aimed at Prasad and Kumar who emerged in the political arena from the JP movement.
Calling himself a "soldier of the JP movement," Prasad said it was "an emotional moment" for him and recalled that it was the government led by NDA's Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee which gave Bharat Ratna to JP and also organized JP centenary year in 2002.
Ás per the proposal of the Ministry of Culture, which was approved by the Cabinet, a national memorial will be set up at Lala Ka Tola, Sitab, Diara, in Chhapra district in Bihar, the birth place of Jai Prakash Narayan.
The memorial will also house a virtual museum and an institute to undertake study and research on democracy, enhancing the role of panchayats in nation-building, Gandhian thoughts and centre for Khadi and constructive work keeping in view the thoughts of Jai Prakash Narayan.
Lok Nayak Khadi Gaurav Samvardhan Kendra will also be set up at the same place for making national flags by women clusters.
Hailing JP as an "exemplary leader of Indian independence movement, a freedom fighter, social reformer and a visionary political leader," the government said that his contribution will be commemorated through these decisions.
"As sentinel of Indian democracy, his contribution to redeem democracy will be remembered for long. After proclamation of Emergency on the mid-night of 25th June, 1975, Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan was arrested and kept as a detenu at Chandigarh.
"Jai Prakash Narayan’s call for a Sampoorna Kranti (Total Revolution) for upholding and defending civil liberties at a very critical juncture in the post-independence history of India ushered a new democratic movement for India and contributed to strengthen the roots of democracy," an official statement said.
Briefing reporters, the Home Minister noted that there was no national memorial for JP at his birthplace despite his "glorious" place in history.
He said that there will be no paucity of funds for the project, when asked about the project cost.
He said that the state government will have to provide land for it and a detailed project report will be prepared.
`Prasad rued that though a number of people, who emerged from the JP movement had held important positions in the country in last ten years, they did "nothing" for him.
"Those who speak against Emergency did not pay any attention to JP in the last ten years," he said claiming that it was again a BJP government led by Modi which has decided to set up a national memorial in the name of JP after awarding him Bharat Ratna in the past.
Bihar was the cradle of anti Congress movement during the Emergency. Congress could not come to power on its own in the state since 1989 after the emergence of Mandal and Kamandal politics. This time, Lalu Prasad's RJD and Nitish Kumar's JD-U are fighting the assembly election together in alliance with Congress.
BJP President Amit Shah lauded the government's decision to construct a national memorial for JP.
"I thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the cabinet for their decision to set up a national memorial and museum in memory of Loknayak JP," he said in a tweet.