Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reconstituted the national committee to commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru. The new 31-member committee, chaired by Modi himself, does not include any member of the Nehru-Gandhi family including Sonia Gandhi.
The reconstituted committee, however, includes Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Congress MP Karan Singh, Suman Dubey, a close family friend of the Gandhis, and Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind chief Maulana Mahmood Madani. Singh and Dubey were members of an earlier committee constituted by the UPA government in November 2013. Sonia Gandhi too was a member of the committee that was then chaired by Manmohan Singh.
The Congress, which had also set up a panel under Sheila Dikshit to celebrate Nehru’s 125th birth anniversary, hit out at the government for the delay in recasting the panel and said its intention was suspect.
“The government has woken up too late. Congress president Sonia Gandhi had resigned from the committee set up by the UPA government on May 16 itself. Why wait for so many months? There is hardly any time left now,” AICC general secretary Ajay Maken said. “This shows they are not doing it with the right intention.”
The Prime Minister’s Office is already finalising a major plan to use Nehru’s birth anniversary — November 14 — to connect with school children. The first meeting of the reconstituted committee will be held soon after Deepawali, a government statement said.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, HRD Minister Smriti Irani, Culture Minister Shripad Naik and Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar are ex-officio members of the committee. Culture Secretary Ravindra Singh will be Member-Secretary of the panel.
Other members are former Sikkim Governor B P Singh, Madhya Pradesh Governor Ram Naresh Yadav, former Foreign Secretary M K Rasgotra, former Lok Sabha Secretary General Subhash Kashyap, Lokesh Chandra, former Cabinet Secretary Naresh Chandra, author Prof Madhavan Palat, who is also associated with the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Trust, Dr Chandrasekhar Dasgupta of the Energy & Resources Institute, Prof Nasir Tyabji, former fellow of the Jawaharlal Nehru Trust, Vice Admiral K K Nayyar, India’s former special envoy to West Asia C R Gharekhan, former Army chief Gen V P Malik, The Indian Express Contributing Editor and President of the Centre for Policy Research Pratap Bhanu Mehta, journalists Rajat Sharma, Swapan Dasgupta, BJP spokesperson M J Akbar and former Uttarakhand Governor Sudarshan Agarwal.
Meanwhile, the Congress panel under Sheila Dikshit has met several times in the last few weeks and and given finishing touches to its year-long calendar of events. A major international conference next month will kickstart the celebrations. Sources said the party is planning to invite several world leaders to the conference given the fact that Nehru’s major contributions were in the international arena including forging of the non-aligned movement.
Besides Sonia Gandhi, the UPA government’s 29-member committee included A K Antony, P Chidambaram, Salman Khurshid, Kapil Sibal, M M Pallam Raju, Chandresh Kumari Katoch, Manish Tewari, Karan Singh and Janardan Dwivedi as members. The other members include historian Sumit Sarkar, former West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi, Ramachandra Guha, Syeda Hameed, Mani Shankar Aiyar and Mahesh Rangarajan.
At least two members of the reconstituted committee said they were not aware of it. When contacted, Kharge said he was not aware of the development. Mahmood Madani too said he had no knowledge of it. “I have not been asked to become a member of any such committee. And the government will not make me a member of any committee without speaking to me ahead of its constitution,’’ he said. Told that the announcement of this new committee has already been made by the government, he said he was travelling and would be able to respond to it once he reaches Delhi Sunday.
Ajay Maken said the Congress has nothing to say on the composition of the panel. “We have nothing to say as long as the commemoration is organised in a manner befitting the stature of Nehru. But we are definitely unhappy over the delay,” he said.