Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday misleadingly referred to a magazine cover showing Indira Gandhi at Morbi in 1979 to attack the Congress party and accuse it of having a “feudal mindset.”
The magazine cover that Modi was referring to featured an image of the former prime minister visiting Morbi in the aftermath of the Machchhu dam failure on 11 August 1979. The dam had burst after 10 days of heavy rainfall and resulted in a death toll ranging from 1,800 to 25,000.
The image shows Gandhi and others covering their noses because of the stench of dead bodies—of both people and animals.
“When Indiraben came to Morbi, I remember there was a photo of her in ‘Chitralekha’ magazine with a handkerchief over her nose because of the foul smells. But for the Jan Sangh and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the streets are fragrant; it is the fragrance of humanity,” Modi said at the rally on Wednesday.
In fact, the cover page of the 'Chitralekha' issue, dated 27 August 1979, says: “Wave of destruction in Morbi” and “Stink of disaster, fragrance of humanity.”
It also referred to the minority central government led by Charan Singh that was in power at the time: “Charan government's shameful letdown.”
The Jan Sangh, the political arm of the RSS, was part of the Janata Party alliance that came to power in 1977 in the first general elections held after the imposition of Emergency by the Congress party under Indira Gandhi’s prime ministership. After Morarji Desai resigned as Prime Minister in 1979, Charan Singh took charge as the head of a minority government that lasted just six months.
When the Congress—and Indira Gandhi—returned to power in 1980, members of the Jan Sangh split from the alliance and formed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).