Nehru Museum to be Cong Fief
Director Rangarajan’s 3-year tenure has been changed till retirement age
HEMA RAMAKRISHNAN & URMI A GOSWAMI
A raft of new appointments in public institutions is one of the perks of a new government. But Congress-led UPA has made sure that BJP-led NDA, the likely election winner, can’t pick its nominee for directorship of a public institution very close to Congress’ heart — the Delhi-based and the ultra-prestigious Nehru Memorial Museum & Library (NMML), dedicated to India’s and Congress’ first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. UPA leaders worked overtime over the past few days to ensure their choice as director continues to retain the job, no matter who’s in power. That is, even if it’s a Modi sarkar, environmental historian Mahesh Rangarajan (50), who was appointed by UPA as director of NMML in 2011, will retain his job. Previous NMML directors have traditionally served till the age of 60. Extending Rangarajan’s tenure till retirement age had not been done until the final days of the UPA regime, though the decision had been taken more than six months ago. As a result of the change made by UPA, Rangarajan’s three-year tenure has been changed to a permanent job till retirement age — which means he gets ten more years in office. Senior ministers who did not want to be quoted said Congress had concerns that a new government could have replaced Rangarajan, whose three-year term was to end in August. With barely 48 hours left for the announcement of election results and a new government taking over, Congress leaders worked at a furious pace. Many phone calls were made, relevant bureaucrats and ministers locat- ed, all signatures obtained and the file cleared, a senior minister said. Guaranteeing Rangarajan’s job was probably the last major executive action by UPA, a senior official said.
Rangarajan did not respond to ET’s queries.
NMML is an institution that Congress sees as part of its legacy. Therefore, the party would not have liked to risk the chance that a new government, which is likely to be led by Narendra Modi, could appoint a director that the party apprehended may not have been “suitable”, a senior Congress minister said.
NMML, an autonomous body under the ministry of culture, was founded in 1964 after the death Nehru. Its current members include Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and senior Congress leader Karan Singh.
All prime ministers are members of NMML. The appointment of other members of the body, especially in a Modi government, will be closely watched by Delhi’s and India’s academia.
Rangarajan’s appointment in 2011 had led to legal challenges. The Supreme Court had ruled in his favour in 2012. His three-year tenure would have ended within three months of the new government taking over. But now, even if a Modi sarkar comes back in 2019, Rangarajan will still be NMML director.