Nehru Mu­seum to be Cong Fief

Di­rec­tor Ran­gara­jan’s 3-year ten­ure has been changed till re­tire­ment age

The Economic Times - - Q -

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.

Ma­hesh Ran­gara­jan

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