Jayanthi Natarajan quits Congress alleging `Rahul rule' in party

Former union minister Jayanthi Natarajan who was sacked as environment minister three months ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, has now quit the Congress after what she termed as a period of 'excruciating mental agony and public humiliation.'

In a scathing letter addressed to congress President Sonia Gandhi, published in The Hindu on Friday, the former union minister and Congress party spokesperson wrote about the treatment meted out to her since being asked to step down as the environment minister 11 months ago during the UPA II government.
 
She said the Congress under Rahul Gandhi has lost all its credentials of being a democratic party and it was not merit but loyalty of the individual party worker to the party bosses that was the criterion for staying in office.

The veteran Congress leader said she has as yet no idea as to why her term in office was abruptly cut short, nor has anyone in the government or the party 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.

''I want to place on record, that from December 20, 2013, until now, I have still not been told by you, why I was asked to resign from the Council of Ministers, nor have I ever been asked or given an opportunity to explain, if indeed I had committed any wrongdoing. On the other hand, the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh wrote a letter to me, accepting my resignation, in which he praised the excellent work I had done as minister, and what he termed my valuable contribution as minister. In these circumstances, it was clearly neither the Prime Minister nor my work in government, which led to my ouster as minister. Thus it still baffles me, why I was humiliated so brutally.''

Other Congress leaders had then claimed that Natarajan's resignation as environment minister was meant to serve the party during the upcoming general elections. But, Natarajan said, ever since she resigned as environment minister, she had been constantly refused a party position and was even sacked as an official spokesperson and not allowed to speak to the media.

In a letter addressed to Congress President Sonia Gandhi in November 2014, that has been exclusively accessed by The Hindu, Natarajan had slammed the Congress chief as well as party vice president Rahul Gandhi, saying his aides 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.

Natarajan said 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 while she was the environment minister she was often dictated to by both Rajiv Gandhi as well as his aides and that she had to listen to sermons on the need for environment protection.

Natarajan said she had tried to oblige the party bosses and had to take some unpleasant decisions, which she would on her own would not have taken.

"I received specific requests [which used to be directives for us] from Shri Rahul Gandhi and his office forwarding environmental concerns in some important areas and I took care to honour those 'requests'," she wrote in her letter to Sonia Gandhi.

She has now sought a review of all the projects cleared by the UPA-II government

Congress leaders were quick to rally behind Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, saying the two are deliberately being targeted. They dismissed Natarajan's allegations of his interference in the work of environment ministry as ''completely baseless'' and accused her of having ''ulterior motives''.

Jairam Ramesh, who was earlier shifted out of the environment ministry before handing it over to Natarajan, however, said her allegations against the Gandhis were ''not just completely unfair but also preposterously baseless.''

''As Natarajan's immediate predecessor for slightly over 25 months, I can say with all honesty that at no point of time did Rahul Gandhi ever tell me, directly or indirectly, what to do or what not to do in the discharge of my ministerial responsibilities,'' he said in a statement.

M Veerappa Moily, who succeeded Natarajan in the ministry also rubbished the allegations, saying Rahul Gandhi had never interfered in the functioning of the ministry.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley, meanwhile, sought a review of environmental projects granted clearance or rejected permission during the UPA regime after Natarajan accused Rahul Gandhi of interference in green clearances for projects.
 
Natarajan's letter to Sonia Gandhi "conclusively establishes" that it was not the statutory or mandatory considerations which weighed with the Congress but only "whims" of the leaders, Jaitley charged.