PM Museum: From exclusivity to inclusivity

The Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya building is certain to be one of Delhi’s most iconic structures with a grand architectural plan that is aesthetically executed.

Published: 18th May 2022 07:56 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th May 2022 07:56 AM   |  A+A-

Illustration: Soumyadip Sinha

The Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya (PMS), one of the most modern museums in India, housed in an iconic building in the Teen Murti complex, is now open to the public. The Sangrahalaya, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month, is a tribute to the leadership provided by all PMs and their collective efforts towards nation-building.

In a sense, given its vision and content, the museum has in one stroke ended the era of exclusivity perpetuated by a long-lasting previous regime and brought in the more democratic idea of inclusivity. However, instead of appreciating the idea, there are the usual whiners and grumblers who are unhappy that all prime ministers are acknowledged and honoured in this museum. All that one can say about such people is that they are individuals who are maladjusted to the core principles of democracy.

When the idea of such a museum was mooted some years ago, those who were clinging to the past, and to the fraudulent narrative that India owed its independence, democracy and development to just one family, raised objections and tried to stall the project. Their argument: The Sangrahalaya is being built to “dilute” the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru. A visit to the PMS today will expose the fallacy of this argument. The truth is that the Nehru Museum was very poorly maintained when “the family” controlled it. It lacked imagination and there was no commitment to interestingly narrate the story of Nehru’s contribution. Today, the Nehru section of the PMS is far more informative and educative than it ever was and it provides valuable insights into the solid foundations that were laid by the country’s first prime minister though the ‘temples of modern India’.

I dare say that finally, Nehru has got his due. In other words, since “the family” perceived the Nehru Museum as its estate and maintained it rather poorly, the transformation of the Nehru section in the Sangrahalaya will give us a glimpse of how the family ran the country for several decades and how it ought to have been run!

Those in the family’s ecosystem are most troubled by their ouster from what they regarded as their private adda—The Nehru Memorial Museum & Library (NMML). One such acolyte of the family had the temerity to claim that research at NMML had deteriorated after 2014 and that a “hideous” building (the Sangrahalaya) was coming up in the Teen Murti complex.

The Sangrahalaya building is certain to be one of Delhi’s most iconic structures with a grand architectural plan that is aesthetically executed. If this family acolyte has any shame, he should publicly apologise for making such a presumptuous, irresponsible statement about NMML and the new museum long before it was built.

As regards the Sangrahalaya, some things must be said upfront. First, it was Modi who came up with the idea of such a museum to showcase the contributions of all prime ministers. Further, as president of the NMML, the prime minister had a couple of interactions with members of the Executive Council on the progress of the project and offered his suggestions of the content of the museum. In these conversations, the PM provided two important mantras. First, he said that while building PMS, we must shake off “Kalpana Daaridriya” (poverty of imagination) of the past, and feel free to experiment with new ideas and innovations. The opening of the Sangrahalaya in a sense signals that the era of Kalpana Daaridriya is over.

Listening to him and looking at the iconic projects initiated by him, one felt that what separates governance pre- and post-2014 is indeed the poverty of imagination in the era gone by and the new awakening that one sees now. The second mantra was “balance”. Modi said it was very important to ensure balance in assessing the events during the tenure of each prime minister.

The museum showcases India’s development since 1947. Currently, the galleries of all prime ministers except that of Modi are ready and open to the public. Visitors get a glimpse of the early life, political career, policy initiatives of every prime minister and the challenges faced by them, irrespective of the length of their tenures. This includes PMs like Deve Gowda, Inder Kumar Gujral, Chandra Shekhar and Charan Singh, who had tenures less than a year. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, P V Narasimha Rao and Lal Bahadur Shastri have received ample attention. Similarly, there is adequate focus on the achievements of Morarji Desai and Dr Manmohan Singh, apart from the three prime ministers from the Nehru-Gandhi family.

What is most significant about this list of prime ministers is that of the 14 galleries that have been opened, 13 of them belong to prime ministers who represented the Congress while in office or began their political careers in that party. Vajpayee is the only prime minister who had no association with the Congress.

The prime minister said while inaugurating the PMS that there is as much of the future as there is of the past in the museum. He was referring not only to the multi-touch, multi-screen experience in each gallery but also to the Anubhuti section of the museum, which is state of the art and highly engrossing with holograms, virtual reality and augmented reality—this enables visitors to get a selfie with any one of the 15 prime ministers of the country or a video of a stroll with the PM. Thus the Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya is not only different, but dramatically so. So, on your next visit to Delhi, please ensure that the Sangrahalaya is on top of your itinerary.

A Surya Prakash
Former chairman of Prasar Bharati, Vice-Chairman, Executive Council, Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, and Scholar, Democracy Studies. 

suryamedia@gmail.com



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  • Giri

    I am sure the self-styled "liberal" (means owing everything to the past generosity to them by the corrupt relics of the dynasty) find everything to criticise the government and Modi personally!!!
    4 months ago reply
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