Former Union Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan on Friday quit from the primary membership of the Congress citing “humiliating treatment” in the manner in which she was shunted out of the Ministry in 2013 and the refusal of the high command for over a year to hear her defense.
She also welcomed the comment of Union Environment Minister Prakash Javedekar in New Delhi that all the files relating to projects she had mentioned in a letter to Sonia Gandhi, for which “inputs” of Rahul Gandhi were factored in to make the final decision, would be reviewed.
Addressing a press conference in Chennai, a visibly emotional Ms. Natarajan said the reporting of the letter she wrote to Ms. Gandhi in The Hindu made her come out in public with her grievances.
Narrating the sequence of events that led her to quit the party she had been part of for 30 years, Ms. Natarajan said she had always followed the party line and the views of the “high command” in deciding on clearances to specific projects.
Reproducing the contents of the letters, reported in The Hindu on Friday, she said her own reputation and the legacy of her illustrious family were tarnished by the “ruthless, vilification campaign” orchestrated by some in the Congress.
Mounting a scathing attack on Mr. Gandhi, 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.
“I have no shame in stating that I was always a Gandhi-family loyalist to the core. I followed instructions devotedly but was let down by the party,” she said.
“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, clearly suggesting that the Congress vice-president had interfered in the decision making process.
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.
However, Ms. Natarajan reiterated that inputs from Mr. Gandhi on the projects were in the nature of forwarding concerns of tribals and activists and categorically denied that there could have been any “corruption” involved in his moves.
On whether she would reconsider her decision to quit the party if Ms. Sonia intervened, she said the time has lapsed for such a development. “I did receive calls over the last week from people close to her asking me to come and meet her in person. But I felt it was too late,” she clarified, adding that her decision to go public was fuelled by the utter apathy shown by the high command to her attempts to reach out to them.
On Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charge during the Lok Sabha election campaign that industries had to “suffer” a ‘Jayanthi Tax’ to clear their projects, she challenged him to provide proof for any wrongdoing on her part. “But when my own party had let me down so miserably, how could I expect the BJP to hold back,” she said.
Ms. Natarajan also pointed out that she would resign as trustee of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee trust. She asserted she did not have any idea of joining other political parties for now, including the BJP and Tamil Manila Congress (The Hindu).