High-tech tools to let people click selfies with their favorite prime ministers and take virtual walks with them. A virtual time machine that chronicles India’s nuclear journey. An automated pen to personalize a letter from the visitor’s favorite PM. It’s all part of a new museum dedicated to the country’s 14 prime ministers which was opened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday.
At the entrance to the museum are portraits of all the leaders, with the late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on one side and Prime Minister Modi on the other. The first gallery contains excerpts from India’s freedom struggle, starring Mahatma Gandhi and Subhas Chandra Bose. This is followed by a section on Indian Presidents.
The section of the museum housing the selfie points and the automated pen, among others, is called Anubhuti. It also features quizzes on each chief and the ability to listen to speeches given by PMs from the ramparts of the Red Fort. The winding corridors that climb some of the galleries contain several key milestones in India’s journey since 1994. The Prime Minister’s travels are captured by detailed videos and several letters written by them.
A climb of stairs leads to an elaborate section on Lal Bahadur Shastri, where several of his personal artifacts – a Tashkent vase, his badminton racket and his chakra – are on display. On the left is former Prime Minister Gulzarilal Nanda. Each prime minister has been assigned a gallery marking the challenges and achievements of their tenure. For example, the abolition of private stock exchanges, defense acquisitions and the nationalization of banks find mention in Indira Gandhi’s gallery, as does the emergency, the troubles in Assam and Punjab.
The Morarji Desai Gallery showcases the leader’s commitment to press freedom. He talks about the formation of the Janata Morcha and the declaration of emergency, referring to how the leader was detained for 19 months.
For Rajiv Gandhi, screens focus on his development of computers and the introduction of telephones, kicking off the technological revolution. The three peace pacts signed during his tenure are mentioned – in Punjab, Assam and in the Mizo peace agreement.
For Vice President Singh’s gallery, a highlight is his effort to implement the recommendations of the Mandal Commission, which called for quotas for other backward classes. In Chandrashekar’s gallery, his 2,000 km long Bharat Yatra, in which he attempted to connect with the masses, is prominently displayed.
Narasimha Rao’s contribution to the liberalization of the Indian economy is the pillar of his story. The missile program launched during his tenure, coupled with the passage of the Panchayat Raj Act are other events.
HD Deve Gowda is being touted as the harbinger of a new era in Indian television. The Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 1996 which made it illegal to insult the national flag and the Constitution is highlighted.
The doctrine of IK Gujral, where he argued for good faith relations with certain countries and declared that all disputes would be settled peacefully, is the mainstay of his gallery. He is described as “a politician who was first a gentleman”.
For Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the victory over Pakistan in the Kargil war in 1999 is in the spotlight. Vajpayee is also credited with introducing Sarv Shiksha Abhiyaan (education for all) and building highways to connect India’s four major cities.
Manmohan Singh’s gallery kicks off with its satellite program. He also mentions India’s Unique Identification Authority, Singh’s foreign policy initiatives, the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the Andhra Pradesh bifurcation.