In the wake of former PM Manmohan Singh’s letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in which he raised concerns over an “agenda” to “change the nature and character” of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) and the Teen Murti complex, NMML director Shakti Sinha told The Indian Express, “I respect the former Prime Minister’s views. However, I would humbly like to say that the objections are a little misplaced.”
“Even in the present set-up, less than 2 per cent of the books, documents and other items in our repository are about Jawaharlal Nehru. When we expand the repository to include other PMs, we will be adding to Nehru as well in the process. Nowhere are we obliterating Nehru, we will make it Nehru-plus,” he added.
In the letter sent last week, Singh invoked former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and said that under his six-year tenure, “there was absolutely no attempt made to change the nature and character of the NMML”. The letter came amid the controversy surrounding the government’s plans to set up a museum for all PMs within Teen Murti complex.
Sinha, who has served as private secretary to Vajpayee, said, “Nehru was a democrat. It is only fitting that in the spirit of democracy, we expand the display and focus on the office of the Prime Minister rather than one prime minister.”
At the 43rd annual general body meeting of NMML in July, chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, six of those present had raised objections to construction of the proposed museum. These included Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Jairam Ramesh.
A key contention has been whether such a museum should be housed on the NMML premises or outside. “We are opposed to it as this is the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru and associated with the freedom movement. It cannot be destroyed,” Kharge had said. Ramesh had termed the move “diabolical, intended only to obliterate Jawaharlal Nehru”.
Even as a final decision was not taken in the face of the opposition, sources in the Ministry of Culture, under which the project will be implemented, said, “The plan has been finalised and PMO has approved the design. We are acquiring content on all PMs and are going ahead with the museum.”
A Surya Prakash, another member of the NMML Executive Council, said, “Teen Murti Estate and Teen Murti Bhavan (Nehru’s residence and now the museum) are distinct entities. Often, an attempt is made to imply that these are the same. The library was constructed later on the premises, then the planetarium came, some land was also given to Delhi Police. There is scope for adding more in the complex.”
Sinha also said they have scaled down the museum project cost. Initially, as per the concept note, the cost was estimated to be Rs 270 crore. “The revised cost is around Rs 150 crore,” Sinha said.