Within a fortnight of the foundation-laying ceremony for the Rs 270-crore Museum of Prime Ministers in the Teen Murti complex, the government has effected major changes to the 34-member Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) Society, removing three existing members and appointing a Rajya Sabha MP, a TV anchor, a former foreign secretary and a veteran journalist in their place.
Through a notification dated October 29, 2018, the Centre has appointed Rajya Sabha MP and Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) chief Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, television anchor Arnab Goswami, veteran journalist and head of Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts Ram Bahadur Rai, and former foreign secretary S Jaishankar. They have replaced economist Nitin Desai, bureaucrat B P Singh and professor Udayan Mishra. The resignation of Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Ashoka University vice-chancellor and contributing editor for The Indian Express, who quit NMML in 2016 citing “political pressure”, has also been officially accepted with the recent notification.
Commenting on the move, Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma told The Sunday Express, “This is a continuous process under which some new people have been given a chance to contribute to the NMML Society.”
NMML director Shakti Sinha told The Sunday Express that a meeting of the revamped Society is likely to be convened soon to discuss details of the proposed museum. He added, “All those who have been brought in have a wide knowledge of Indian politics and the functioning of the offices of consecutive prime ministers. They can bring in this knowledge to the new museum.”
While Rai said he “wasn’t aware of the development till he read about it on social media”, Sahasrabuddhe tweeted on Saturday, “It’s an honour to be on the board of Nehru Memorial Museum n Library! Many thanks PM @narendramodi ji, @dr_maheshsharma ji! Expectedly,those talking about Inclusive Democracy are opposing conversion of NMML into all-PM Museum with Pt Nehru Memorial intact!” The tenure of the new members extends up to April 2020.
At the last AGM of the NMML, held in July and chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, at least six of the 22 members present had voiced their objections to the museum, including Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Jairam Ramesh, historian Nayanjot Lahiri, besides Nitin Desai and B P Singh.
Desai, also a member of the NMML Executive Council, has been a vocal critic of the government’s plans to amend the memorandum of association that governs the NMML Society, pointing out that it amounts to “moving away from the original motivation” and the “long standing orientation” of the institution.
According to the minutes of a June meeting of the NMML Society, Desai, while responding to proposed amendments to the Memorandum of Association of the NMML Society, had said that “Pandit Nehru represents a link between the freedom struggle and the early years of independence. And that his contribution to our evolution as a nation is qualitatively different from that of his many successors.”
At the AGM, another member, Dr Karan Singh, had proposed the setting up a new society for the proposed museum. Several other members had also endorsed that stand, saying the best way to get round the objections was to register a new society to carry out the task.
The last time the NMML Society and NMML Executive Council were reconstituted was in 2015. Lokesh Chandra, former head of ICCR, was appointed chairman of the Executive Council while former Union minister M J Akbar was made its vice-chairman. Akbar, who wasn’t present at the ground-breaking ceremony of the new museum, has retained his position in the Executive Council.