Jayanthi Natarajan quits Congress, ready to face probe

Fomer Union Minister Jayanthi Natarajan arrives to address a press conference, where she announced her resignation from the Congress, in Chennai on Friday. Photo: R. Ragu  

In a jolt to the Congress, former Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan resigned from the party on Friday and mounted a scathing attack on vice-president Rahul Gandhi for ‘interfering with decision-making’ during her tenure in the UPA II government.

She welcomed any inquiry into decisions taken by her as Minister, including a CBI probe. Ms. Natarajan was responding to Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar who said in Pune that all files relating to projects she had mentioned in her letter to party president Sonia Gandhi — which was published exclusively by The Hindu on Friday — would be reviewed.

Addressing a packed press conference here, an emotional Ms. Natarajan said she had always followed the party line and the views of the “high command” in deciding clearances for projects.

“I have no shame in stating that I was always a Gandhi family loyalist to the core….but I was let down by the party,” she said. “I have only followed the party line and rule book on all environment issues. To protect the forest rights of people and the rights of tribals in cases like Vedanta. There was no wrong doing on my part.”

“Specific inputs were received from the office of Rahul Gandhi based on the representation by NGOs raising environment concerns on certain large projects,” she said, but added that the inputs were in the nature of forwarded concerns of tribals and activists. She categorically denied that there could have been any “corruption” involved.

Ms. Natarajan announced that she would resign as trustee of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee Trust. She said she did not have any idea of joining other political parties for now, including the BJP and Tamil Manila Congress. She had not met anyone from the BJP, she said.

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‘Let them probe’

Speaking to reporters here, Ms Natarajan was reacting to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charge during the Lok Sabha election campaign that industries had to “suffer” a ‘Jayanthi Tax’ to get project clearances.

“But if my own party treats me so badly, why should I blame him? He was in opposition. If Modi is talking of Jayanthi tax, let them investigate,” she said.

On returning to Congress

Asked whether she would reconsider her decision to quit the party if Ms. Sonia intervened, she said the time for such a development was past.

“I did receive calls over the last week from people close to her [Sonia Gandhi] asking me to come and meet her. But I felt it was too late,” she said, adding that her decision to go public resulted from the apathy of the high command to her attempts to reach them.

In fact, she received the first call in over 11 months from the party only when former Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan floated the TMC.

Attack on Rahul

The former Union Minister said the change in stance of the Congress vice-president at a conference of FICCI in December 2013, where he virtually blamed her Ministry for the bottleneck in clearing big-ticket projects worth millions, came as a “thunderbolt” from the blue.  

Complete coverage: Jayanthi Natarajan quits Congress

Former Union Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan quits from the primary membership of the Congress > Read here

The Hindu Exclusive: Jayanthi Natarajan's letter to Sonia Gandhi. > Read here

Jayanthi's letter rocks capital; Congress evasive, BJP on the offensive. > Read here

Jayanthi's resignation from the Congress is unlikely to have any unusual impact on the party’s plummeting fortunes in Tamil Nadu. > Read here

BJP denies that Jayanthi Natarajan had met any of their leaders last year. > Read here

Congress high command has to respond to Jayanthi's charges: CPI > Read here

Prakash Javdekar said it was his duty to review those specific files where extraneous influence had been alleged as per the letter. > Read here

Several Congress leaders issued hard-hitting statements against their former colleague > Read here

Digvijay charge

On the reaction of Congress general secretary, Digvijay Singh, that she was “lying” and that Mr. Gandhi would never interfere in the manner stated, Ms. Natarajan said she would like to keep the conversation civilised and said she had all the documents to back each of her claim.

Jayanthi Natarajan's Trajectory

Fact File

  • First elected to Rajya Sabha in 1986 and again in 1992
  • 1996: Joins party leaders to form Tamil Maanila Congress
  • 1997: Resigns from Rajya Sabha and re-elected as TMC member. She is appointed Minister of State for Coal, Civil Aviation and Parliamentary Affairs in United Front government at the Centre
  • July 12, 2011: Jayanthi replaces Jairam Ramesh as Environment Minister in the UPA-led Union government
  • November 16, 2013: She is asked by Ajay Maken to address media to attack then BJP PM candidate Modi on ‘Snoopgate’ issue
  • December 19, 2013: She notifies order on the protection of Western Ghats based on Kasturirangan report amid protests
  • December 20, 2013: She is forced to resign as Minister of State for Environment and Forests (Independent Charge) to ‘work for the Congress party’
  • December 21, 2013: Rahul Gandhi addresses FICCI meet: “Many of you have expressed your frustration with environmental clearances that are delaying projects unduly. Environmental and social damage must be avoided, but decisions must also be transparent, timely and fair.”
  • January, 2014: Environment Minister Veerappa Moily clears pending mega projects
  • November 5, 2014: Jayanthi writes to Sonia Gandhi to express her anguish at the treatment meted out to her

Key projects stalled/rejected

Adani group project: Asked by Rahul Gandhi to ‘liase’ with Gujarat Congress’ Deepak Babaria on complaints by NGO, fisherfolk

Vedanta Rs.4,500-crore Bauxite mining in Niyamgiri hills

August, 2010: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi assures Niyamgiri tribals he is their ‘sipahi [soldier] in Delhi’

April, 2013: Supreme Court rules Vedanta must get nod from 12 gram sabhas of Niyamgiri hills

“If the bauxite mining project in any way affects [villagers’] religious rights, especially their right to worship their deity, that right has to be preserved and protected” : SC Bench

January, 2014: MoEF rejects environmental clearance to project

Lavasa township project in Maharashtra

November, 2010: MoEF slaps financial penalty on Lavasa for violation of Environment Protection Act, orders fresh EIA

June, 2011: MoEF offers nod to project subject to five preconditions, Lavasa agrees to four (environmental restoration fund, CSR allocation, revised development plan)

November, 2011: MoEF grants clearance after year-long holdover

Nirma Cement plant in Gujarat

May, 2011: MoEF seeks relocation of plant from ‘wetland’ site

June, 2013: MoEF postpones expert panel’s pre-monsoon visit to site to ascertain whether it is waterbody or wasteland.

Supreme Court Bench call the postponement “abuse of process of law”

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2022 5:19:42 AM |

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