Within three weeks of appointing retired bureaucrat Raghvendra Singh as the new Director of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML), the government has reconstituted the 34-member NMML Society, dropping Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh, Mallikarjun Kharge and Karan Singh, and bringing in lyricist Prasoon Joshi, journalist Rajat Sharma and PM Narendra Modi’s biographer Kishore Makwana. As many as seven Union ministers, besides the PM, are part of the society, which has been given a term of five years.
The order dated November 5, “in supersession of the government’s earlier order dated April 27, 2015”, mentions PM Modi as the society’s president, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh as vice-president, and Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal, I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar, MoS External Affairs V Muraleedharan and Culture Minister Prahlad Patel as members. Former Union minister M J Akbar has been dropped, apart from two new members — TV anchor Arnab Goswami and former foreign secretary S Jaishankar — who were appointed just a year ago.
“All independent and scholarly voices have been dropped and drum-beaters have been included,” Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, who has been a founding member of the society, told The Indian Express. “It’s ironic that they have eliminated all those who believe in the ideology of Nehru,” he said, adding that NMML is becoming “Nagpur memorial museum and library”, in a dig at the affiliation of the new members.
The other new appointees include academics Kapil Kapoor and Kamlesh Joshipura, researcher Rizwan Kadri and author Anirban Ganguly, who have been brought in to replace history professor Nayanjot Lahiri, conservationist AGK Menon, economist Bibek Debroy and Infosys co-founder NR Narayana Murthy. At the last annual general meeting of the NMML in July 2018, around six of the 22 members present had raised objections related to the proposed Museum of Prime Ministers, including Kharge, Ramesh and Lahiri. Two other members — economist Nitin Desai and bureaucrat BP Singh — who were very vocal with their objections against the new museum were ousted last year, and replaced by Goswami and Jaishankar. During the meeting, Karan Singh had proposed setting up a new society for the Prime Minister’s museum under a new director.
A new addition this time has been to include a representative of Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund (JNMF) as an ex-officio member in the society. JNMF, which has been functioning from the same premises as NMML since more than 50 years, is engaged in a bitter legal tussle with the government after it was issued a notice in September last year to vacate the premises. JNMF secretary Suman Dubey said no formal communication has been received “as yet from the government with regard to NMML Society”.
The PM’s pet project — the Rs 270-crore Museum of Prime Ministers — that is coming up at the NMML complex is in its final stages. The project, which was supposed to be completed by October 2020, is currently behind schedule by a few months. Sources said the appointments have been made so that the project can be executed smoothly under the PMO’s watch without any further controversies. The ground-breaking ceremony for the project was held in October last year in the presence of Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma.
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