The dictum 'it never rains, it pours' would be apt for the fortunes of the Congress as it scrambles for cover from the latest, and to date, most devastating, thunderbolt to hit it. Former Union minister for environment and forests Jayanthi Natarajan, a fourth-generation Congress person, has come out all guns blazing to set right what she sees as a systematic vilification campaign against her ever since she resigned her ministerial position at the end of 2013.
Ms Natarajan, after a year's wait for an explanation from the party, finally sent Congress president Sonia Gandhi a letter at the end of 2014, expressing her anguish over being attacked in the media and other forums for having carried out the high command's instructions in her ministry. For this, she earned the reputation of being an obstructionist to development. She has revealed that on several occasions Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had sent express instructions to her, following which she took decisions which were perceived as anti-industry. Yet, Mr Gandhi, it appears, according to Ms Natarajan, thought nothing of adopting an industry-friendly stance the day she was forced to quit.
What Ms Natarajan's disclosure reiterates is the lack of communication within the Congress. When she wrote the letter to Ms Gandhi, it would have been in the fitness of things to sort out the issue then and there. The fact that it was left lingering seems to have precipitated the current crisis. The Congress has, of course, hit back, questioning why
Ms Natarajan kept quiet all these years and also suggesting that the timing of her revelations was dictated by another political party. A minister in the government, as Ms Natarajan was at that time, is meant to report on official business only to the prime minister. In this case, she has categorically stated that even her removal from her position was not the PM's doing but on orders from the party president. In over eight months since the BJP has assumed power, the Congress has behaved like a deer caught in the headlights. It now has to somehow stop itself from unravelling further. For this, it has to shelve its high command culture and undertake a genuine look at its leadership issues. The dissatisfaction at the top will definitely percolate to the rank and file if it is not addressed in time.
The Congress has called Ms Natarajan an opportunist and liar. But, the ferment in the Congress is very real. The Congress has to play a role in public life as a vibrant Opposition party. As of now, it seems to be abdicating that role even in the face of dissent from veterans like Ms Natarajan.