The historic Ramlila Maidan, which separates the walled city from New Delhi area, has witnessed several trend-setting rallies, dharnas and demonstrations. It was here that Jayaprakash Narayan addressed his last rally before he was arrested after the Emergency was clamped.
Old-timers recall that the rally took place a day before Indira Gandhi declared Emergency, on June 26, 1975. JP addressed a rally of over a lakh, where he gave a call to supporters to gherao the prime minister’s residence, after she refused to resign following the Allahabad High Court’s order declaring her election to the Lok Sabha as invalid,’ recalls JD(U) leader KC Tyagi, who was among those present at the June 25 rally.
The high court had on June 12 set aside her election from Rae Bareli, triggering demands for her resignation. Indira Gandhi rejected the demands and declared Emergency, before getting a stay against the high court order from the Supreme Court. With talk of Emergency being declared doing the rounds, prominent leaders backing JP’s movement had skipped the rally.
Bharatiya Jan Sangh stalwarts Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a crowd-puller, and LK Advani were in Bangalore, as were leaders such as Charan Singh and Raj Narain. “But despite this, JP managed to attract a huge crowd, which had spilled on to the nearby areas. It was held in a charged atmosphere. There was lot of enthusiasm among the people,” Tyagi said, adding that JP also used the opportunity to ask the Delhi Police to defy the orders passed on by their superiors.
In 1977, several anti-Congress parties came on a common platform of Janata Party. Another rally was held here soon after its formation, and it was addressed by Vajpayee.
“Since Atalji had by then already acquired the reputation of a master orator, large crowds turned up to listen to him, as also the other speakers. The rally was important as a large number of Muslims…had turned up to hear the Shahi Imam, Bukhari Senior, who had just been released from jail, and had extended his backing to the Janata Party.” Economic Times