New Delhi: Seeking to turn the tables on the Congress over the controversy surrounding revamping of Nehru Memorial and Museum Library (NMML), Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma on Tuesday said Jawaharlal Nehru was a national leader and his legacy was not a "fiefdom" of Gandhi family.
The minister also accused the UPA regime of "illegally" appointing director of NMML violating an order of the Election Commission (EC) last year and said the government would be taking an appropriate action in the matter.
On criticism from Congress over revamping the NMML, he said India's first Prime Minister was a national leader and not a "family property".
"The Modi government has been respecting all the great people and will continue to do so. Nehru's birth centenary was celebrated. Celebrations are taking place for Gandhi ji, Ambedkar. BJP believes that any great man who has contributed to nation building, they are not fiefdom of any one family. They are nation's legacy.
"And respecting nation's legacy, BJP and the government under Narendra Modi has been doing and will keep doing that. If there has been a start of narrow mindedness anywhere, it has started from the Congress party. Let me tell Sonia ji, that NMML is not a family property or not anybody's individual property. It is a national property and now, Nehru is no more a family property, he is a national leader..."
Sharma also asserted that the government has no intention to rewrite history dealing with great leaders, spiritual leaders, freedom fighters, but committed to honour them and upgrade their museums and libraries to meet the expectations of a common man and of course, carry on with the cause for which they have been created.
Sharma also termed the appointment of Mahesh Rangarajan as Director of NMML as "illegal and unethical" and said it was done despite the EC writing a letter on May 12, 2014 to the Culture Ministry asking it to defer a proposal on permanent absorption of Rangarajan for the post till the election process was over.
However, on May 14, in a cabinet committee meeting of the UPA government a decision was taken that the Director of Nehru Memorial will be appointed, Sharma said, adding and despite EC orders, Rangarajan was made director on May 19 till retirement of Nehru Memorial.
The minister further said that previous directors had a three-year tenure.
He said an appropriate action would be taken in future.
Asked why the NDA government did not raise this issue in the past 15 months, Sharma said "We never wanted to raise this issue. But, once Congress leaders including the Congress president has reacted on this issue, now it has become our duty to bring the facts before the public."
The government's decision to revamp 39 institutions including the Gandhi Smriti and Nehru Memorial Museum and Library to introduce modern Indian component, including works of the Modi dispensation was sharply criticised by Congress which termed it as "diabolical".