December 7, 1978, Forty Years Ago
The Janata crisis is far from resolved. Another minister to join George Fernandes in his resolve to quit the Cabinet is Biju Patnaik, Minister for Steel. The dissident ministers met twice and discussed their next move. There were hot exchanges at the luncheon meeting and it indicated that most dissident ministers favoured a conciliatory approach, keeping in view the overall unity of the party. Fernandes is believed to have said that he too was for unity. But, he said this should not take them away from their real task: To improve the functioning of the government in the face of Morarji Desai’s reported reluctance to do so.
The stage is set for the first-ever trial in Parliament of a former prime minister for breach of privilege. The Lok Sabha begins a discussion on the Privileges Committee report holding Indira Gandhi guilty. The outcome of the debate will decide whether Mrs Gandhi is given punishments like imprisonment till the end of the winter session and expulsion from the Lok Sabha or is let off with a reprimand or more suspension of her membership for the current session of Parliament. The opposition parties, including the Janata’s ally the CPM, favoured lighter punishment for the former PM. Hardliners in the Janata Party, however, were of the view that if other parties did not join the Janata Party in its desire to punish Indira Gandhi, the party should go ahead on its own and award stern punishment to the former PM.
Indira is LS leader
The Congress (I) president, Indira Gandhi, was unanimously elected chairman of the Congress (I) Parliamentary Party, the party secretary, Kalpnath Rai, announced. Rajya Sabha member, N G Ranga, proposed Mrs Gandhi’s name for the top post and the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, C M Stephen, seconded it at the meeting of the CPP(I) held in Parliament house.