Chennai, Jan 30 (IANS) The Tamil Nadu unit of the Congress has been taken by surprise by the outpourings of former union environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan to party president Sonia Gandhi.
“I am reading her (Natarajan’s) letter published by The Hindu. It is for the party high command to decide on the future course of action,” a senior state party leader told IANS on condition of anonymity.
Another Congress member questioned Natarajan’s contribution to develop the party at the grass root level.
A senior leader of thr Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) led by G.K. Vasan told IANS that there is no news of Natarajan joining the party as of now.
In her letter to the party president Natarajan said as the union environment minister she followed the party line with regard to protection of environment and also to “requests” from Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s office.
When contacted by IANS, Natarajan was not available for comment with regard to her Nov 5, 2014, letter to the party president and her future course of action.
Natarajan in her letter to Gandhi published by the daily The Hindu Jan 30 said: “Madam, I write to you with a very heavy heart. Over the last 11 months, I have suffered the most excruciating mental agony, and have been continuously attacked, wrongly vilified and defamed in the media, and exposed to every possible humiliation in public life.”
“As I write today, more than 30 years of my loyal, faithful, and dedicated service to our party stand destroyed and in shambles around me. My entire career is ruined, and above all, the sacred and venerable legacy of my family, which served our nation and party with immense distinction, and patriotism stands in danger of being tarnished.”
Natarajan was asked to put down her papers Dec 20, 2013, by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
“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,” Natarajan told Gandhi.
Narrating the sequence of events that led to her resignation Natarajan said she was asked by Singh to resign as the Congress president required her services for party work.
“I did not for a second at that time, imagine the consequences of resigning just 100 days before the elections were due, and what would lie in store for me in the future. I trusted you with my life, and even more importantly, with my reputation, my career and the legacy of my family,” Natarajan said.
“The next day my resignation was headlines in the media, and all the initial reports correctly reported that I had stepped down for party work. By the afternoon, to my shock, I received information that persons from the office of Shri Rahul Gandhi were calling the media and planting stories that my resignation was NOT for party work,” Natarajan wrote to Gandhi.
“I also feel that I have been pressurised and used to lead issues which I considered wrong. An instance: While I was still a Minister, an important matter which has caused me great agitation is the fact that I was called upon to attack the present Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on what is referred to in the media as ‘Snoopgate’,” Natarajan added.
“As chairperson NAC, you have written several letters to me regarding projects in the environment ministry and protection of tribal rights, and I have always kept you briefed that due care was being taken by me to protect the environment,” Natarajan said.
“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 said.
Natarajan said she took great care to ensure the interests of tribals in Niyamgiri Hills in Odisha were protected after Rahul Gandhi publicly declared to Dongria Kondh tribals that he would be their sipahi/soldier and would not allow their interests to suffer at the hands of the mining giant Vedanta.
“Fortunately, my decision was upheld by the the Supreme Court. The same happened in the case of the Adani projects, where I faced tremendous criticism from within the cabinet and outside, for stalling investment at a time when the country was going through a difficult time in terms of the economy.”
“The complaints of the local fisherfolk and NGOs of environmental violations in the Adani case were forwarded to me by Shri Rahul Gandhi’s office, and I was told to liaise with Shri Dipak Babaria in the matter. Occasionally, I apprised Shri Rahul Gandhi of steps I had taken, and he responded positively. In fact you have yourself conveyed your concern in this regard in letters written to me.”
In the case of projects of the Adani group, Natarajan said she was asked by Mr. Gandhi’s office to “liaise” with Gujarat Congressman Babaria on the aforementioned complaints.
“In several cases including the stalled GVK power project in Himachal Pradesh, the Lavasa project in Maharashtra, and the Nirma cement plant in Gujarat, I was given specific input, to make my decision. Apart from this, Shri Pulok Chatterji, principal secretary to the prime minister was in constant touch with me, and officers of the ministry in guiding the decisions to be taken by the ministry at that time.”
“So in my decision making I have factored in the party line despite all criticisms against me and therefore several decisions of mine were expressly overruled by the Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh),” Natarajan said.