It will feature all past and future prime ministers of India, including Narendra Modi, but will not have Jawaharlal Nehru.
The Narendra Modi government’s decision to build a Museum of Prime Ministers on Teen Murti estate in the heart of Delhi is designed to include all prime ministers in the past as well as in the future, including prime minister Modi.
The museum, however, will not feature India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and will begin from his successor, Lal Bahadur Shastri.
The Teen Murti estate already houses Nehru’s residence, which is also a memorial, as well as a library. The new building will be a separate entity.
The annual general meeting of the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library (NMML) taking place Thursday evening is expected to pass several amendments to its Memorandum of Association to this effect.
Last week, NMML director Shakti Sinha met H.D. Deve Gowda — prime minister for about 11 months in 1996-97 — who is believed to be very happy at being interviewed for the project.
Certainly, the BJP hopes that a Deve Gowda gallery in the Museum of Prime Ministers will help its cause in softening the Janata Dal and turning it in its direction in Karnataka.
Talks with the families of other prime ministers haven’t been as promising. For example, the family of Congress leader Dr Manmohan Singh is believed to have shied away from offering any personal material on him although one of his daughters, Daman Singh, has written a book on him.
Dr Singh, too, hasn’t been personally approached so far.
It is believed that efforts are on to gather material on prime minister Modi. Some hagiographic information is available, including a comic book which features how the child Narendra caught a crocodile. Modi’s formative years with the RSS, especially his travels across the country, are expected to reveal glimpses of the man who became prime minister.
The PM is believed to have already cautioned the ministry of culture, under which the NMML functions, to say that the Museum of Prime Ministers must share space with all former prime ministers, from Lal Bahadur Shastri onwards, and not be restricted to himself.
For and against
But several members of the NMML executive council, such as historian Nayanjot Lahiri, international diplomat Nitin Desai, Congressman Jairam Ramesh and architect A.G.K. Memon are said to have opposed building another structure on Teen Murti Estate, believing that it will “dilute Nehru’s impact”.
The pro-BJP group at the same executive council meeting contested that argument, pointing out that Nehru’s importance could not be undermined, and by that argument the Nehru planetarium should not have been built on the 25-acre estate.
The Thursday meeting, taking place under the leadership of Home Minister Rajnath Singh, is expected to be stormy, but because the pro-Congress group is in a minority, the amendments will be easily passed.
Sinha told ThePrint that the Nehru Memorial museum, Nehru’s former residence, will remain exclusively devoted to Nehru’s life and the new galleries that are being added during the ongoing renovation will “substantially add” to what people know today about India’s first prime minister.
“India’s democratic experiment is unique in the world and we must celebrate it,” Sinha said, explaining the concept behind the Museum of Prime Ministers.
Asked about prime minister Modi’s presence in the museum, Sinha added, “He will be there, but he’s not the only one. There are other galleries with whom he will share space.”
The ministry of culture has already set up three panels to work on the project.