Subramanian Swamy had come to join the Bharatiya Jana Sangh through a circuitous route. An up- and-coming academic economist who specialized in China, he had completed his PhD at Harvard at the age of twenty –four and co-authored a study with the noted economist Paul Samuelson. Swamy had quit his associate professorship at Harvard when he was invited to teach at the Delhi School of Economics in 1969. But his views were too pro-market and anti-establishment for the leftists who dominated the school at the time. The offer of professorship was withdrawn and instead the lower post of a reader was offered to him. Swamy opted instead for a professorship at IIT, Delhi. Even here, his opinions got him into trouble: he advocated economic liberalization, criticized the Planning Commission and was passionate about India’s need for a nuclear deterrent.His nationalist views appealed to the Jana Sangh, which nominated him to the Rajya Sabha in 1974. Thereafter, he worked closely with Nanaji Deshmukh, a full-time RSS pracharak at the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Research Institute.
Within a day of the Emergency being declared, Nanaji met up with Subramanian Swamy at a house in Rajinder Nagar, Delhi. Swamy found Nanaji sitting comfortably on a sofa, showing no signs of fear. Swamy, more cautious, kept looking out of the window that opened towards the colony road.’So, Doctor, don’t you want to run away to America now?’ Nanaji joked with Swamy. From then on, Swamy and Nanaji spent a lot of time together.
Nanaji decided to go to Bombay to raise money. He was persuaded to change his appearance, so he discarded his regulation dhoti-kurta and slippers and now wore a loose-fitting safari suit with Bata chappals. He shaved his hair, dyed his moustache black and wore round spectacles. In the new garb, he could well pass off as a tobacco trader from Guntur, Andhra Pradesh. Swamy, meanwhile, transformed himself into a sikh, wearing a turban and a kara.
In Delhi, the police were still on the lookout for Swamy. Once when he caught the train for Bombay, policemen were all over the New Delhi platform searching for him. They could not locate him because of his disguise, but they apprehended his friend Suresh Upadhyaya who had come to see him off. Upadhyaya was arrested under MISA and remained in prison till the emergency was lifted.
Swamy made several trips to Guajarat, staying at the residence of Makarand Desai, a Gujarat minister.The RSS made all the arrangements and he travelled using his MP’s pass which allowed him free passage on train. In Gujarat the RSS often sent a young pracharak to pick him up from station and take him to Desai’s house. This humble pracharak was Narendra Modi, who would become leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) and prime minister of India four decades later.
Swamy, meanwhile , had made up his mind that he wanted to do something that would create a nationwide buzz and serve as an inspiring example for all those wanting to throw out the Emergency powers.
Swamy’s plan was to make an appearance in the Parliament. There was a lot of preparation for this. On 10 August 1976, Roxana dropped Swamy at Parliament’s gate number 4 and then parked the car at the Church of Redemption. The security guards at Parliament House greeted the Jana Sangh MP who walked in so brazenly, assuming that he had signed the Twenty Point Programme and was back in favour after apologizing. Swamy signed the register without any trouble. He bumped into Indrajit Gupta, a CPI MP, who asked what he was doing there. Swamy laughed and took Gupta’s hand and walked with him into the house. His timing was perfect- he came in just as the last obituary references were being read out.
Just as the obituary references were concluding, Swamy stood up and raised a point of order, reminding the Rajya Sabha chairman, Vice President B.D.Jatti, that he had not included democracy in his list of recent deaths. There was a stunned silence. Minister of State for Home, Om Mehta dived under a desk, fearing that Swamy must have a bomb in his hand. Jatti, taken aback, stated indignantly, ‘There is no point of order. There is no point of order.’ He then asked the MPs to stand in silence for two minutes as a mark of respect for those who had passed away, instead of asking the marshals to arrest Swamy.
Taking advantage of the delay, Swamy announced that he was staging a walkout. For a few minutes, there was total chaos in Parliament and no one was sure just what they should do. The parliamentary watch and ward staff did not want to manhandle an MP unless they had been given specific instructions. The police, like bumbling Keystone Cops, were busy phoning the Parliament Street police station to find out if Swamy was on the wanted list. Swamy took advantage of the confusion to quietly leave Parliament House.
He picked up the car where Roxana had left it, the key under the mat, and drove it straight to Birla Mandir. There, he changed into a Gandhi cap and white shirt and pants, the standard Congress uniform, and then proceeded to the railway station. Some Youth Congress workers had attended a function to commemorate Quit India day and they too were at the station. It was presumed Swamy was one of them. He had memorized the train timetables as he had decided to keep changing trains to ensure safety. He boarded the Agra passenger train and a policeman, seeing his MP’s pass, helped him get an upper berth. He left the train at Mathura and from the post office sent a telegram home stating ’Book published’ which was the agreed code for mission accomplished.
From Mathura he caught the Grand Trunk Express and from Nagpur the Gitanjali Express. At Dadar station in Bombay he got off the train and went to the house of Prakash Goel who took him to Vile Parle. There was a large gathering of RSS pracharaks there and the mood was one of euphoria. People were crying with joy and excitement. Foreign correspondents had flashed the news of Swamy’s Scarlet Pimpernel act in Parliament to the wide world outside. By word of mouth, it also became well known at home how Swamy had pulled the wool over the eyes of the Emergency bosses. Embarrassed no end, the government put a price on Swamy’s head.
( Excerpts from ‘The Emergency: A Personal History’ , a book by Senior Journalist Coomi Kapoor )