Less than a week after Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma called his appointment “unethical and illegal”, Mahesh Rangarajan stepped down Thursday from the post of director of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) in New Delhi. The government accepted his resignation and said a new appointment would be made soon.
Rangarajan declined comment, saying he was “doing my work”.
Denying that his ministry had put pressure on the NMML executive council to accept the resignation — Rangarajan had put in his papers earlier this week but was asked by the executive council to reconsider — Sharma repeated what he said about the appointment by the previous UPA government. “Rules were thrown out of the window… there has to be some limit to irregularities,” he told reporters.
It is learnt that Sharma told an executive council member he had nothing against Rangarajan but this resignation should send the Gandhi family a clear message.
In June 2014, The Indian Express first reported that days before he relinquished office as Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh approved the permanent absorption of Rangarajan as director of NMML despite objection from the Department of Personnel & Training that proper procedure was not being followed in his selection.
Rangarajan’s three-year term was to end in August 2014. He was appointed in July 2011 on “deputation” from University of Delhi although rules permitted only direct recruitment. His permanent absorption allowed him to serve as director until his superannuation in April 2024 — it gave him a 10-year tenure.
On Thursday, Sharma raised the matter again, saying Rangarajan’s permanent absorption was done despite the Election Commission asking the then government to defer the move until the 2014 Lok Sabha results.
Questioning the “haste”, Sharma said, “I have not spoken to him in the last three months. Rangarajan has already cited personal reasons for his resignation… The process to advertise for the vacancy and subsequently appoint a new director will now start.”
“He (Rangarajan) was appointed by the previous, outgoing government. The executive council of NMML has now accepted his resignation after he offered to resign,” Sharma said.
He rejected the charge of saffronisation of the NMML, saying at least two of the eminent persons appointed by the UPA government — Nitin Desai and Pratap Bhanu Mehta — were still in the executive council.
Desai is an economist and former civil servant while Mehta is president of Centre for Policy Research and contributing editor, The Indian Express.
Reached for comments on Rangarajan’s resignation, Desai said: “I will only say that the EC had expressed full faith in him. You should ask them (government) why after 15 months they found anything wrong with his appointment. I can’t comment on it.” He said Rangarajan’s work in the last four years had been exemplary.
Meanwhile, the Congress alleged that the resignation was the result of “unbearable pressure” from the government at the behest of the RSS.
“It is a continuation of the politics of vendetta. Less than 24 hours ago, the entire eminent council of NMML congratulated Rangarajan for the excellent work and opposed his removal. But India’s biggest remote control from Nagpur declared otherwise. That pressure was unbearable from the government and you have seen the result in less than 24 hours,” party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi told reporters.