A letter that set off a political storm

Congress leader Abishek Singhvi at a press conference in New Delhi on Friday. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma  

Unfazed by former Union Minister of State for Environment Jayanthi Natarajan’s disclosures in The Hindu, the Congress on Friday sought to portray her charge of interference against vice-president Rahul Gandhi as a compliment, since by her own admission he was taking up cudgels for tribal people and the poor.

“Every Congress worker and legislator is entitled to communicate the concerns of the people to the government,” said Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi.

Though the Congress pointedly accused her of writing the letter to party president Sonia Gandhi and releasing it to the public at the behest of “her new political masters,” Mr. Singhvi did not name the Bharatiya Janata Party. However, he made it amply clear who he had in mind by repeatedly referring to “those who coined the phrase Jayanthi tax.”

Describing the contents of Ms. Natarajan’s letter and subsequent press conference as “entirely hypocritical” and “factually untrue,” Mr. Singhvi said: “She appears to be in a minority... in protesting that she does not know the reason for her removal. It should be seen that the persons, political party and corporate interests at whose behest she acted are the ones who coined the phrase Jayanthi tax.”

Hinting that she could have been pressured into writing the letter because of “culpable material” they might have laid their hands on now, the Congress — while criticising such pressure tactics — said Ms. Natarajan had been removed because of “serious allegations’’ against her.

In fact, the Congress cited the allegations against her as the reason why she was not assigned any party work after she was removed from the Ministry. As for the assurance given to her that she was being removed to be used in party work, Mr. Singhvi claimed that was just a courtesy.

Other Congress leaders conceded that the steady procession of prominent faces leaving the Congress did not augur well for the party in terms of public perception. “But, then we lost the battle of perception long ago,” one leader said.

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

Digvijaya defends Rahul

The AICC general secretary in-charge of Karnataka, Digvijaya Singh, on Friday rubbished Ms. Natarajan’s allegations on Mr. Gandhi’s ‘interference’ in the Ministry’s work.

“First of all, it is absolutely wrong that either Congress president Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi ever interfered in the functioning of the UPA government. The Ministers were free to take decisions,” Mr. Singh, who arrived in Bengaluru to hold a meeting of the State Congress coordination committee, told presspersons.

“One thing I know is that Mr. Rahul Gandhi will be the last person to interfere in the functioning of any Ministry…therefore, I think these kinds of allegations by someone who got everything in life from the Congress is uncalled for.”

“[Prime Minister] Narendra Modi had levelled allegations mentioning Jayanthi tax or Natarajan tax. Now, she has to reply and make it clear whether Mr. Modi’s allegations were correct or not,” Mr. Singh said. Mr. Modi had made a veiled reference to the removal of Ms. Natarajan from the Environment Ministry, saying he has heard of “Jayanthi tax,” apparently referring to allegations during her tenure.

( With inputs from Nagesh Prabhu from Bengaluru)

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”

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | May 16, 2021 3:17:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/jayanthi-natarajan-resignation-a-letter-that-set-off-a-political-storm/article6841894.ece

Next Story