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British Council gets BJP lifeline
- In season of takeovers, Chauhan does a tata

Bhopal, April 2: The Madhya Pradesh government has taken over from the Tatas in the season of acquiring institutions very British.

The BJP regime in the state yesterday said it would take charge of the British Council Library in Bhopal, a month after it closed operations causing much heartburn to its thousands of members.

The decision follows a month-long campaign by over 5,000 members, who signed a petition asking the British Council authorities to rescind the decision and even launched a blog to get support.

Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, a “book lover”, has intervened and ordered the “takeover” of the library, days after the Tatas acquired Jaguar and Land Rover, two British marquee brands from Ford.

Chauhan yesterday signed an order transferring the library’s lease of the building to the education department.

State planning commission vice-chairman Sompal Shastri said: “I have received an official communication from British Council minister (cultural affairs) Rod Pryde saying we can run the library.”

He said state representatives would meet British Council officials and sign a memorandum of understanding. “The chief minister has sanctioned Rs 1 crore for the library, so we should not have any problem running it.”

Chris Gibson, the director of the British Council, India, said: “The British Council has agreed to donate books, CDs and DVDs free of cost.”

The British Council Library closed its operations in Bhopal and Thiruvananthapuram on February 29, stating it was shifting focus to education and new projects with the involvement of the United Kingdom Education Research Institute.

A spokesperson for the council said the closure was part of its global restructuring and the changing “nature” of its work in India.

But the BJP regime has succeeded where the communists in Kerala have failed. Kerala chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan, too, tried to take over the British institution, but got bogged down by a legal wrangle with the Young Men’s Christian Association, on whose premises the library was housed.

Chauhan faced no such obstruction, paving the way for the takeover, possibly the first such of a British Council facility in India.

The British Council authorities, however, insisted it was not a “takeover”. “This is not a takeover. We have just given our stocks to the Madhya Pradesh government to open its own library.... We have closed two libraries only to launch new products that would reach a wider audience,” said Les Dangerfield, deputy director, British Council, India.

It was not known if the Union Jack would continue to flutter over the library as the Tatas have promised it would at the Jaguar plant in England.

But Chauhan wants to give the library a “nationalist” flavour and name it after a prominent Hindutva icon. Chauhan has a personal library that has dozens of books on Swami Vivekananda.

Asma Naseer, a joint director in the education department, said the government would like to run the library and retain its staff and members.

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