Families of ex-PMs happy with Pradhan Mantri Sanghralaya; Gandhis skip event
New Delhi, Apr 14: A spinning wheel which former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri got as "dowry", Chaudhary Charan Singh's diaries and P V Narasimha Rao's spectacles are among the articles that their families have offered for display at the Pradhan Mantri Sangrahalaya, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday.
Members of the Nehru-Gandhi family, which gave the country three prime ministers, chose to skip the event, while kin of former premiers Chaudhary Charan Singh, PV Narasimha Rao, HD Deve Gowda, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Morarji Desai and Lal Bahadur Shastri attended it.
Located at the Teen Murti Complex in New Delhi and built at a cost of Rs 271 crore, the museum will shed light on the lives and contributions of all the 14 former prime ministers of the country.
The erstwhile Nehru Museum building, designated as Block I, now has a completely updated, technologically advanced display on the life and contributions of Jawaharlal Nehru.
A number of gifts received by him from all over the world but not exhibited so far have been put on display in the renovated Block I. Many of the family members said that they were emotional and awestruck at the expanse of the museum and the space accorded to each prime minister.
"We gave them anecdotes, books, photographs for the museum. A spinning wheel which was given to my father as dowry has also been given to the museum. When my father had refused dowry, he was given the 'charkha'. These are very personal things and we gave them with a heavy heart. A badminton racket he used and a vase he got as present during his last visit to Tashkent are also part of the collection," said Sunil Shastri, who said that he had held several meetings with officials to finalise details of his father Lal Bahadur Shastri's enclosure in the museum.
Shastri, who served as the second premier of India, coined the term 'Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan', and his son rued that this slogan is yet to be incorporated in the museum display. "We have also offered them the car he bought on loan when he was PM and is now parked at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Memorial," he said.
While Shastri praised the museum and hailed the concept that celebrated the contributions of former premiers, members of his Congress party skipped the event. The Congress' last PM, 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 who too were invited did not provide any explanation for their absence, the sources said. "The family members of all former PMs have been invited to the inauguration," an official said.
PV 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.
Rao's grandson and BJP leader NV Subhash claimed that the Congress did not give enough credit to the late PM and it took 18 years for him to be recognised for his work. "He has got the respect he deserves 18 years after his death. He gave his entire life to the Congress party and did not get any credit. If the Gandhis had come here today, I would have asked them the reason behind this.
"The museum is a great homage to his legacy and all the PMs share importance equally," he said.
Subhash said that the family had provided the late PM's glasses, clothes, shoes, laptop and even some of his books to the museum.
Sandhya Agarwal, the granddaughter of Chaudhary Charan Singh, too sounded emotional as she looked through the museum's collection on her grandfather. "I am overwhelmed. This is a great initiative to preserve his legacy. It is thoughtful and well constructed. It is also great for the future generations to know the people who built this country. I plan to bring my children here," she said.
The family has contributed pictures, letters, books and diaries of the former PM to the museum. Relatives of Deve Gowda and Morarji Desai and Vajpayee's daughter too attended the event.
Morarji Desai's Bhagavad Gita, Gandhi cap, pen and 'rudraksh mala' find a place in the gallery dedicated to him, besides Vajpayee's Bharat Ratna medal, spectacles, wrist watch and some letters.
It also has some handwritten diaries of Chandra Shekhar on display. Officials said that all exhibits on Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Manmohan Singh are archival material as their families did not provide any article for display at the museum.
The exhibits included pictures of Indira Gandhi, her speeches, archival material on the Pokhran nuclear test, Bangladesh war and documents on nationalisation of banks during her tenure.
The museum also highlighted Rajiv Gandhi's passion for computers. The museum has used high-end technology to bring the lives and times of 14 former PMs in the spotlight. With smart voice-overs, screens and visual effects, the museum virtually transports visitors to the era of a PM whose life they are experiencing.
The museum also has a selfie point where visitors can click their photographs with the former PM of their choice or walk with them. There is also a light-and-sound show. The museum has 43 galleries with a capacity to hold 4,000 visitors at a time.
The price of a ticket to visit 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 while groups of more than 20 people have 25 per cent off. PTI