Days after former environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan accused him of interfering in the ministry’s work, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi said on Wednesday the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) propped up his estranged colleague to spite him for criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Gandhi told a poll rally at Bhalswa in north Delhi he had directed Natarajan not to approve projects in tribal areas without looking into concerns of the poor.
“Yes I had told her that she should work for the welfare of tribals and the poor. Rights of the poor and tribals should be protected at all costs,” he said.
Gandhi accused the BJP of instigating Natarajan to speak against the Congress. “Ek din maine Modiji ke baare mein kuch kaha, agley din unhoney Natarajan ko khada kiya (One day, I said something about Modi, the very next day, Natarajan was propped up).”
This was his first reaction to Natarajan’s allegation that he used to interfere in the project approval process during her tenure at the environment ministry before she was forced out in December 2013.
“I am not scared of anyone. I will keep fighting for the poor ... I am not here for four-five industrialists.”
BJP’s Sambit Patra called Gandhi’s barb against Modi a reflection of the Congress’s desperate attempt to find a toehold in the Delhi election.
Natarajan quit the Congress party last week, criticising Rahul Gandhi for trying to woo industrialists in the lead-up to last year’s general elections by going back on his earlier instruction to stall projects in tribal areas.
Congress sources said she had held back more than 100 projects across the country without providing valid reasons despite repeated requests from the PMO.
Veerappa Moily, her successor in the final lap of the UPA-II government, cleared over 100 projects, including Posco in Odisha that was embroiled in a standoff with villagers.