New Delhi: politically fraught plan to build a museum dedicated to all former prime ministers at the existing site of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library entered a new phase with the government now inviting design suggestions from the public.
While the original intention was to organize a global design challenge, proposed in August 2017, indications are that such a competition may not take place due to lack of time.
The present thinking is that it “could all be done in-house," said a senior government official on condition of anonymity. “I don’t see a design competition happening now due to time constraints. There is something called a general election coming up."
The public has been invited to submit designs through mygov.in and the government will take a call after internal consultations once ideas come through, the official added.
NMML, or Teen Murti Bhawan, was the residence of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The proposal to build the new museum within the campus, instead of at a new site, has been seen by some as a diminution of Nehru’s legacy.
The culture ministry’s mygov.in makes a case for creating a dedicated space to document the history of India’s executive branch represented by the Prime Minister, citing Parliament and the Supreme Court, who have both set up curated museums within their respective premises.
“Since the institution of the prime minister is critical to Indian democracy, it deserves to be better explained. In fact, India’s democratic experience, unique as it is, has not been presented in the way it should be," the mygov.in post said.
“It is unfortunate that the life and work of many of our prime ministers has not been well documented. In fact, many have received very little attention. While contributions of individual prime ministers have been different and obviously cannot be compared, it should actually be left to individuals to assess it; relevant facts, all at one place, will facilitate that process," it added.
The post invites suggestions for a building spread over 15,000-20,000 sq. metres of floor space. It should be futuristic and technology-oriented while also complimenting the historical cityscape of Delhi. There’s nominal prize money of Rs10,000.
The plan to build a new museum for PMs is inspired by the model in the US, where outgoing presidents set up a presidential library in their home state, said NMML director Shakti Sinha. “But how many museums can we build. We already have 15 PMs. That is why the government planned to democratize an existing space. Even presently, the museum is not just about Nehru. There is a lot about the freedom struggle," he said.
“There is a section of Bharatiya Janata Party which has questioned the legacy of Nehru. It seems that the government wants to dilute the legacy of Nehru by making a museum for all the former prime ministers," said Abhay Kumar Dubey, New Delhi-based political analyst associated with the Centre for Study of Developing Societies.