Beed: Maharashtra minister and NCP leader Jitendra Awhad has said that Indira Gandhi tried to "throttle" democracy by imposing Emergency, prompting ally Congress to warn of a "befitting reply" if its leaders were insulted.
Awhad later claimed that he was quoted "out of context".
The NCP leader referred to Emergency imposed by then prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1975 while speaking at a programme organised by the Sanvidhan Bachao Sangharsh Samiti in Beed city in central Maharashtra on Wednesday.
"Indira Gandhi tried to throttle democracy by imposing Emergency. That time nobody spoke against it openly. But opposition started from Ahmedabad and Patna (with students' agitations), and Indira Gandhi was defeated due to the power of people," he said.
His statement came amid ongoing protests over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC).
"Whenever a Hitler is born, he is afraid of intellectuals and students as they are rebels. That is why the students at JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) and other universities are being attacked," the minister said.
"The number of students who are opposing the developments that pose a threat to the Constitution is not big at present. But the figure will rise," he claimed.
"Not Hindus or Muslims but it is the Constitution which is in danger. Whatever the BJP wants to do, let it do. Hold the tricolor in one hand and copy of the Constitution in the other and oppose this conspiracy," Awhad said.
Later in the evening he issued a clarification claiming that he was quoted out of context.
"Opinions differ on Emergency. Somehow people felt that Emergency was against the Constitution. So Indira Gandhi lost the subsequent election. If people can defeat Indira Gandhi, who are (prime minister Narendra) Modi and (union home minister Amit) Shah," the NCP leader said.
But his reference to Indira Gandhi elicited a sharp response from the Congress. Former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan said a "befitting reply" would be given if anyone disrespected party leaders.
"Late Indira Gandhi is known in the world for sacrificing her life to protect the unity of the country. It is welcome that @AwhadSpeaks issued an explanation in time," the Congress leader tweeted.
"However....if anyone disrespects our leaders then there will be a befitting reply," Chavan added.
Recently, senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut had created a flutter by claiming that Indira Gandhi used to meet yesteryear underworld don Karim Lala in Mumbai. After the Congress saw red, he withdrew the remark.
The Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena are partners in the coalition government in the state.