Minister of State for Culture (Independent Charge) Mahesh Sharma has said he will take legal opinion on the appointment of Mahesh Rangarajan as director of the >Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML).
Mr. Sharma told The Hindu that he was “getting the matter examined at three levels: whether there was any irregularity in the appointment; whether it is legally correct or not; and more importantly, the ethical dimensions of this appointment.” The NMML has been in the midst of a controversy over certain changes to be made to the museum and library to accommodate more contemporary history. The Congress and some academics have termed it a “saffronisation project” by the Modi government.
“On May 16, 2014, there was a clear mandate in favour of this government, and issuing an order for this appointment three days after such a mandate, what do you feel, was it correct?” Dr. Rangarajan’s tenure as NMML director was extended till 2024 (when he would attain the age of 60) on May 14, when the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, cleared the file, 48 hours before he demitted office. “Why didn’t they complete this exercise a month before demitting office? The irregularity has been done by the Congress,” Mr. Sharma said.
The >NMML is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Culture and is administered by an eight-member executive council and has a larger body, Nehru Memorial Society headed by the Prime Minister, as an advisory board.
With the May, 2014 order, however, the NMML director is a regular employee of the government of India and therefore all the rules attached to removing a government official will apply to him. This makes the Ministry of Culture’s move rather moot.
The Minister, possibly anticipating this, added that taking the legal and administrative opinion on the matter did not necessarily mean that “we would remove that [Dr. Rangarajan] person.”
“I have nothing personal against Dr. Rangarajan, and the irregular way in which he was appointed has been with us for over a year. Now, the way the Congress is raising all sorts of issues alleging wrongdoing, I want to show them that ethically we are not wrong, you [the Congress] are wrong,” he said.
When it was pointed out that it seemed to be a case of pillorying Dr. Rangarajan because of a political slugfest between the ruling party and the Congress, Mr. Sharma said: “When the Congress leaders started pouncing on us, saying that we are saffronising the NMML and making other accusations, I have to show a mirror to them. They are ethically wrong, while the Modi government has sanctioned over Rs.10,000 crore for renovations and other things. It has not violated a single word of the Memorandum of Understanding and the NMML Act.”
Dr. Rangarajan was not available for comment. Members of the >Nehru Memorial Society The Hindu contacted declined comment.