The Congress was in the direct line of firing on Friday when former environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan charged...
The Congress was in the direct line of firing on Friday when former environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan charged party vice-president Rahul Gandhi and the central high command for making her block big investment projects in the name of safeguarding environment and later dumping her to cosy up with industrialists.
Natarajan made the allegations at her press conference in Chennai after a letter written by her on November 5, 2014, levelling such charges to Congress president Sonia Gandhi was leaked.
She announced her resignation from the party and said she has no plans to join any other political party.
But what rankled the Congress was the charge by Natarajan, who was Minister of State (independent charge) in the UPA-II government, that she kept on receiving requests from Rahul and his office to look into big projects which could be detrimental to the environment. She said Rahul and his office forwarded such concerns which they received from several NGOs.
It was on the basis of such requests that she blocked several big investment projects to safeguard the environment even though her cabinet colleagues protested against such moves because the country needed investments.
Natarajan made specific mention of projects like the Niyamgiri project of Vedanta, a cement plant of Nirma and projects by the Adani Group, all of which she blocked at Rahul’s behest, amid protests by her Cabinet colleagues.
While the Congress rose to defend its vice-president stating that Natarajan was removed as minister because of corruption charges and questioned the timing of her making public such allegations, the ruling BJP government said it would review all decisions taken by her.
Natarajan was dropped from the UPA-II cabinet on December 20, 2013, after then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told her the Congress president wanted her services in the party.
However, she found that a day later Rahul’s office was calling up media offices to say that her services were not required by the party.
What peeved her was that on December 21, 2013, Rahul at a Ficci AGM told industry members that now onwards environmental clearances won’t be a problem and would be expedited.
“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 wrongdoing on my part,” she asserted at a hurriedly called press conference.
“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.
She also said that as a minister in UPA-II, she did not want to attack Narendra Modi on the snoopgate issue but was told that the party at the highest level wanted her to do so.
Natarajan said she wrote to Rahul asking for a meeting but till date she did not get time.
“I had to face the anger and wrath of my colleagues, who felt that investment is being blocked… I fully followed the party line,” she said.