The BJP on Monday stepped up its attack against former Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan and demanded to know why multi-crore projects, some of which were critical to the country’s growth were stalled.

Party spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman defended the comments made by the BJP’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi on Sunday referring to a ‘Jayanthi Tax’ while referring to the backlog of pending applications with the Ministry.

She cited the number of projects that have been cleared by the current Environment Minister M. Veerappa Moily in the past fortnight as proof that his predecessor was “stalling” projects. “Mr. Moily cleared the Posco project in Orissa, NHPC’s 520 MW Teesta IV in Sikkim, another in Tawang,... why were all these held back earlier?” Ms. Sitharaman said, addressing the media.

“Why were people approaching the Prime Ministers Office for clearances? The Ministry of Environment and Forests worked sometimes with a green conscience and sometimes with functioned as a red ministry. No clearances were issued, decisions were delayed; there was also cherry picking, only selective projects were approved and there were other considerations (during Ms. Natarajan’s tenure). Delhi was abuzz with gossip and industry fears, it became the Ministry for holding back clearances,” she said.

Ms. Sitharaman also drew comparisons between Jairam Ramesh and Ms. Natarajan and said while the former’s concerns were influenced by concern for the environment, the latter’s stalling of projects was based on “other considerations”.

The BJP alleged that in the past decade the MoEF has not been able to strike a balance between environmental protection and steps required for growth. “Why does the Ministry not come out with stipulations about norms; stipulations leave no scope for interpretation. At a time when the Ministry was expected to clear projects, Ms. Natarajan took it back to the licence, quota raj,” the BJP spokesperson said.

The BJP leader said the Congress Party and the UPA government were probably aware of the mounting applications that were pending with the Ministry and also of the cases where the files had been signed, but still withheld, which is perhaps the reason why Ms. Natarajan was replaced.

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