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Govt plans to make Nehru museum a monument for all Indian PMs

The plan triggered doubts about the BJP-led NDA government’s intentions as it has been at loggerheads with the Congress, which has often accused the ruling coalition of trying to undermine Nehru’s legacy.

india Updated: Aug 23, 2017 08:04 IST
Children walk past a photograph of Jawaharlal Nehru at the Nehru Memorial Museum in Delhi. (Abhishek Saha/HT Photo)

The government plans to make Nehru Museum Memorial and Library a monument for all former prime ministers, prompting the Congress to caution on Tuesday the legacy of India’s first Prime Minister and the iconic building should not be changed.

The warning coincides with the NMML’s decision at its annual general meeting not to tamper with the original structure of the real estate dedicated to Jawaharlal Nehru, one of the Congress’s top icons.

“There are proposals for a memorial for all former PMs, which can be used for future PMs as well. But it will be done not at the cost of Nehru. If finalised, it will be a separate structure,” said Shakti Sinha, director of the museum.

According to a source privy to the meeting, a concept paper will be prepared to decide how the government’s proposal can be executed.

The plan triggered doubts about the BJP-led NDA government’s intentions as it has been at loggerheads with the Congress, which has often accused the ruling coalition of trying to undermine Nehru’s legacy.

Speculation swirled that the BJP would try to push its ideologues such as Deen Dayal Upadhayay into the museum.

But Union home ministry officials said after the NMML annual meeting that only former prime ministers would be accommodated.

“Some members clearly disagreed with the government’s plan … the museum should be solely dedicated to Nehru. Government officials informed that discussions on NMML will happen once a concept note and its possible redevelopment is floated,” an official said.

The Congress appears worried about the proposal that surfaced towards the end of last year.

“It is a heritage building. There will be no tinkering with the original structure,” said party parliamentarian Karan Singh, who is also an NMML Society member.

Singh and party colleagues Jairam Ramesh and Mallikarjun Kharge said the exclusivity of the institution dedicated to the life and work of Jawaharlal Nehru shouldn’t be altered.

Swapan Dasgupta, a Rajya Sabha MP and a member of the NMML executive council, supported views about the building’s sanctity.

“There is a plan to make a gallery (of former prime ministers). It is still in the drawing board stage. Subsequently it will be done but only after the approval of experts,” he said.

Besides Nehru, there are memorials of former prime ministers Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. And it has been long debated that the other prime ministers should have memorials too.

Space constraints came up for discussion at the meeting.

“The government wants to use digital and other modern technologies that save space. The idea of virtual technologies was discussed as well,” a ministry official said.

The members, however, agreed that the library needs to be modernised with focus on research, academics and archives.

The library doesn’t contain Nehru’s works entirely. It has a tome of Mahatma Gandhi’s writings and private papers of leaders such as C Rajagopalachari and Jayaprakash Narayan.

First Published: Aug 23, 2017 08:04 IST