Congress heavyweight Jayanthi Natarajan quits, blames Rahul of interfering with her work
Chennai/New Delhi: In a huge blow to the Congress, former Union Minister Jayanthi Natarajan quit the party Friday holding party general secretary Rahul Gandhi responsible and accusing him of sending ‘specific requests’ on environmental clearances for projects.
“This is an extremely painful moment for me because my family has been associated with Congress since its inception,” Natarajan said, while addressing the media in Chennai on Friday. “I have absolutely no plans of joining any party,” she added.
A longtime Congress loyalist, Natarajan said she was ready to face probe into environmental clearance accorded by her during her stint as minister in the UPA government.
"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 Vedanata. There was no wrong doing on my part," she asserted at an hurriedly called press conference here.
"I am willing to be hanged or go to jail if any concrete proof of my wrongdoing is established," Natarajan said.
Virtually opening a can of worms, she accused Rahul Gandhi's office of planting stories to sully her reputation after she had resignaed as Environment Minister on the direction of Sonia Gandhi.
"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 suggesting that the Congress vice-president had interfered in the decision making process.
Natarajan said Rahul Gandhi accused her of holding up environmental projects in a FICCI meet. “But he never told me this personally,” Natarajan said.
“When I wrote a passionate email to Rahul Gandhi, about the FICCI speech, I got this reply from him: ‘I am a little busy’", she said.
The former Union Minister said she could not continue in a ‘suffocating atmosphere’. “I was asked to launch an attack on PM Narendra Modi. I was called to Delhi by Ajay Maken to attack Modi based on the decision taken by the high command,” she added.
Earlier, Natarajan sent a letter to party chief Sonia Gandhi, in which she said she was ‘wrongly vilified’ and ‘defamed’ in the media by sections of the party.
“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,” Natarajan said in the letter.
Natarajan charged that she had become a victim of a ‘vicious, false and motivated’ media campaign by some individuals in the party after Rahul Gandhi shifted from his ‘pro-environmental stance’ to a ‘corporate friendly’ one during campaigning for Lok Sabha polls.
The letter published in a daily said the minister was asked to resign in less than 100 days before the country went to general elections.
The four-time Congress MP's decision has added to the overflowing cup of woes of the Congress and triggered a barrage of attack by BJP leaders on the style of governance of the UPA regime.
Natarajan is the second leader in Tamil Nadu to quit the party after G K Vasan. Vasan has floated a party of his own.
The Tamil Nadu unit of the Congress is facing internal bickering and the latest incident being the act of defiance by Karti Chidambaram, son of senior leader P Chidambaram, who refused to reply to a showcause notice issued to him by the state unit for his alleged anti-party remarks.