In a major embarrassment for the Congress party days ahead of the Delhi Assembly polls, Jayanthi Natarajan, who was sacked as Environment minister three months ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls has quit the Congress after what she terms has been a period of 'excruciating mental agony and public humiliation.'
The NDTV channel confirmed that Natarajan had resigned, following media reports, that the veteran Congress leader was unhappy at how the party completely sidelined her, and have not yet given her a reason for why she was asked to step down as minister a day ahead of Rahul Gandhi's address to FICCI where he assured industrial leaders that the government would ensure a investor-friendly environment.
In a November 2014 letter addressed to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, that has been exclusively accessed by The Hindu, Natarajan slammed the Congress chief as well as party vice president Rahul Gandhi, saying his officers planted stories against her in the media immediately after she quit the cabinet in 2013 saying her resignation was not for 'party work' as officially stated.
Writing that she trusted Sonia with her entire life and not for a moment did she think twice about resigning when asked to work for the party, Natarajan questioned the Congress chief over why she has been constantly refused a party position and even sacked as an official spokesperson and not allowed to speak to the media.
Natarajan said throughout her tenure in the government, she stuck to the party line and stood by Indira and Rajiv's vision on environment protection.
I strictly followed the laws and rules and tried to protect the environment, in keeping with the legacy of Smt. Indira Gandhi and Shri Rajiv Gandhi, who first brought in the Environment Protection Act. Since I had only followed this line of our party, I could not understand why I had been asked to resign within half an hour on the previous day, especially since I had never been told of any issues prior to December 20, 2013. Some analysts speculated that I might be projected as the focal point for the perceived failure of the economy at that time.
Natarajan, in her letter, said she had received specific requests [which she said were directives] from Rahul Gandhi and his office forwarding environmental concerns in some important areas and she said she took care to honour those requests. Some of them listed were Vedanta, the Nirma cement project and tribal issues.
Shri Rahul Gandhi went in person to Niyamgiri Hills in Odisha, and publicly declared to the Dongria Kondh tribals that he would be their “sipahi” and would not allow their interests to suffer at the hands of mining giant Vedanta. His views in the matter were conveyed to me by his office, and I took great care to ensure that the interests of the tribals were protected and rejected environmental clearance to Vendanta despite tremendous pressure from my colleagues in cabinet, and huge criticism from industry for what was described as “stalling” a Rs. 30,000 crore investment from Vedanta.
Natarajan, in her letter also stated that she was was never a bottleneck in the development process, nor was she ever responsible for unwarranted delays in major projects and has reiterated her demand for the Congress to make clear why she was removed as a minister even after then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh praised her for her 'excellent work' and 'valuable contribution.'
Natarajan had quit the ministry on 20 December and then Oil Minister Veerappa Moily took over immediately. Soon after, Moily in an interview to Mint, said he would clear all pending files within a month.
"My number one priority is that the process should be smooth here and delivery should be perfect. I would like to see that whatever pending matters are there in this ministry—yes or no—I will do it within a month. I will mark the day, and (you can) come on the last day and ask me if there are any files pending. I will say no," he had said then.
Updated Date: Jan 30, 2015 11:30 AM