The families of several former PMs were present at Thursday’s ceremony, but not the Gandhis
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday inaugurated a museum that is dedicated to all former Prime Ministers of India. Mr Modi bought the first ticket of the “Pradhanmantri Sanghralaya” as he entered the museum for its inauguration.
The new structure is located on the lawns of Teen Murti Bhavan and the old building, known as Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, has been incorporated as part of the museum. The families of several former PMs were present at Thursday’s ceremony, but not the Gandhis. The PMO said the museum was guided by Mr Modi’s vision to honour the contributions of all Prime Ministers of India towards nation-building and was a tribute to every Prime Minister since Independence, irrespective of their ideology or tenure in office.
The government chose the birth anniversary of Dr B.R. Ambedkar, the key architect of India’s Constitution and a towering leader from the dalit community, to inaugurate the museum in a gesture replete with political importance.
In his speech after inaugurating the “Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya”, that is dedicated to all previous 14 Prime Ministers, Mr Modi said every PM had contributed immensely to fulfil the goals of constitutional democracy and it was a matter of great pride for Indians that most PMs had come from humble backgrounds.
“Every government formed in Independent India has contributed in taking the country to the height it is at today … Every Prime Minister of the country has contributed immensely towards achieving the goals of constitutional democracy… To remember all Prime Ministers is to know about the journey of independent India,” Mr Modi said, while asserting that barring one or two exceptions, the country has a proud tradition of strengthening democracy in a democratic manner.
While Mr Modi did not elaborate on this, the BJP has been critical of some past Congress governments, especially the one headed by Indira Gandhi, over weakening democracy. Mrs Gandhi had suspended civil rights and imposed the Emergency in 1975.
The Prime Minister said the museum is a living reflection of the shared heritage of each government and the contribution of former PMs, their background, struggles and creations. “Coming from a remote countryside, from a very poor family, coming from a farmer’s family, reaching the post of Prime Minister, this strengthens the faith in the great traditions of Indian democracy… It gives confidence to the youth of the country that even a person born in an ordinary family can reach the highest position in the democratic system of India… Barring a couple of exceptions, India has a proud tradition of strengthening democracy in a democratic way,” he added, as he acknowledged and greeted the families of the past PMs present on the occasion.
While members of the Nehru-Gandhi family, that gave the country three PMs, chose to skip the event, the families of former PMs Chaudhary Charan Singh, P.V. Narasimha Rao, H.D. Deve Gowda, Atal Behari Vajpayee, Morarji Desai and Lal Bahadur Shastri attended it.
P.V. Narasimha Rao’s daughter Surabhi Vani Devi had tears in her eyes when asked about her father’s representation in the museum. “It is a very emotional moment for me. I am very happy with the end result,” she said.
The Congress’ last PM, Dr Manmohan Singh, who was invited to join the event, could not attend it due to ill health, sources said. Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who too were invited, did not provide any explanation for their absence, the sources said.
Mr Modi paid tributes to Dr Ambedkar and said: “The Constitution, of which Babasaheb was the main architect, gave us the basis of the parliamentary system. The main responsibility of this parliamentary system has been on the office of Prime Minister. It is my good fortune that today I have got the opportunity to dedicate the Prime Ministers’ Museum to the nation.”
Recalling the rich history and prosperous era of India, the PM laid stress on spreading awareness about the correct picture of India’s heritage and present. He said the government’s efforts to bring back stolen heritage from abroad, celebrating places of the glorious heritage and preserving memories of freedom fighters in places like Jallianwala Bagh, Panch Teerth commemorating Babasaheb, the Freedom Fighters Museum and the tribal history museum are steps in that direction.
The Prime Minister underlined the changing world order and India’s growing status. “Today, when a new world order is emerging, the world is looking at India with hope and confidence, then India will also have to increase its efforts to rise up to the occasion”, Mr Modi said.
Spread across 15,600 sq m, the Sangrahalaya has 43 galleries and has displays on the freedom struggle and framing of the Constitution. The museum has two blocks. The first one is the present Teen Murti Bhavan, also known as the Nehru Memorial, and the second is the new block. The museum was built on 10,491 sq m, and the total project cost was Rs 306 crores. It is said that no tree has been either cut or transplanted during the making of this museum.
The government said the Teen Murti Estate, home to India’s first PM Jawaharlal Nehru for 16 years, was the natural environment for the museum “because this is a story of continuity”. The museum brochure reads: “The Sangrahlaya is a seamless blend which begins with the renovated and refurbished Nehru Museum building, now completely updated and technologically advanced displays on the life and contribution of Shri Jawaharlal Nehru. The new panorama includes a section which exhibits a large number of rare gifts received by him from all over the over but never put on display.”
Holograms, virtual reality, augmented reality, multi-touch, multimedia, interactive kiosks, computerised kinetic sculptures, smartphone applications, interactive screens are some of the special features of the museum.
The price of a ticket for the museum is Rs 100 for online purchases and Rs 110 for offline and Rs 750 for foreigners. Children between the ages of 5 and 12 years have 50 per cent off on their tickets for all categories, and groups of more than 20 people have 25 per cent off.
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