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Shastri memorial losing out to Sonia security

Visitors are deterred as the SPG does not allow parking of vehicles near the memorial as it is next to 10,Janpath

Written by D K Singh |
January 17, 2011 4:26:57 am

WHILE Mayawati government earned praise from Lal Bahadur Shastri’s family for converting his ancestral house in Varanasi into a museum last week,his memorial in New Delhi — located next to 10,Janpath — is witnessing a protracted battle. Between those entrusted to preserve and promote the former prime minister’s ideals and those in charge of Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s security.

The Special Protection Group (SPG)’s insistence on not allowing parking of vehicles near the memorial is said to have become a big deterrence for those interested in the life and works of the second prime minister who succeeded Jawaharlal Nehru.

The memorial authorities are learnt to have taken up the issue with Sonia also but to no avail.

Opposition BJP has now decided to jump into the fray with senior leader Ananth Kumar,one of the trustees of the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Memorial Trust,taking up the cudgels. “This is a sad state of affairs. I am going to write a letter to the Prime Minister,who is the chairman of the trust,seeking his intervention in the matter. Shastri was an icon because of his simplicity,humility and sacrifices. This shows the apathy of the Congress-led government,which is not moved unless it is a Nehru or Gandhi memorial,” he told The Indian Express.

Incidentally,on Shastri’s 45th death anniversary last Tuesday,the BSP regime in Uttar Pradesh announced to renovate Shastri’s ancestral house at Ramnagar in Varanasi and declared that it will be converted into a museum to showcase his life and works.

The same day,the former PM’s son Anil Shastri,a Special Invitee to the Congress Working Committee and Editor of party mouthpiece Congress Sandesh,tweeted: “Mayawati govt needs to be complimented for converting Shastriji’s ancestral home into a museum in Varanasi on his death anniversary today.”

The memorial in New Delhi had been approved by the previous NDA government only to gather dust in government files until the change of regime,which saw Prime Minister Manmohan Singh taking keen interest in the project.

Inaugurating it on May 7,2005,Singh had stated: “ Shastriji gave our country a sense of security and comfort during a turbulent and trying period,when the world speculated over the question,‘After Nehru Who?’”

Within a week after its inauguration,the number of visitors at Shastri memorial had reached up to 1,700 in a day. Soon,however,the SPG began objecting to the parking of vehicles on the plea that the National Advisory Council (NAC),headed by Sonia,was located right across the road,according to sources associated with the memorial. When she quit the NAC Chairperson’s post in 2006 in the wake of the office-of-profit controversy,the memorial director was said to have written to her to seek her intervention.

“Because of SPG’s problem,there is no parking system. Therefore,visitors’ flow is very less,” Kundan Singh,Assistant Curator of the Memorial,told The Indian Express .

Shastri’s son and one of the trustees,Sunil Shastri,sought to downplay the issue. “We have already taken up the matter with the SPG. It has been pending for a long time,but it is a high security area. We are trying our best.”

There was no reaction from the SPG.

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