Jayanthi Natarajan resigned as union environment minister on Saturday, reportedly part of a planned shake-up of the Congress and government by party vice-president Rahul Gandhi in the run-up to general elections next year.
While more ministers may be asked to quit and join the election campaign, sources close to Gandhi told HT Natarajan’s exit was decided after taking into consideration her performance. Indicating as much, Gandhi himself said, “There cannot be arbitrary decisions, whoever it is — the chief minister or the environment minister. There cannot be rent-seeking and blocking of projects. It holds up development. One cannot allow wholesale plunder of the environment. There needs to be a balance.”
His remarks came at a Ficci conference, in response to a question on the functioning of the green ministry.
Natarajan, 59, in her resignation letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said she would like to devote her time to party work in view of the Lok Sabha elections. The PM replied, “I am sure your work for our party, for which you are leaving the government, will also be of immense value.”
Natarajan’s resignation was later accepted by the President. Petroleum minister M Veerappa Moily has been given additional charge of the environment ministry.
While there has been speculation that several ministers such as Anand Sharma, Salman Khurshid, Gulam Nabi Azad and Jairam Ramesh may be quitting the government to join the Congress campaign, there was no confirmation from the party on Saturday. Ramesh had quit in 2009 too, ahead of Lok Sabha polls to devote time to party work. This time, he has already been drafted as the Congress’ election coordinator and is likely to move full-time to the party’s election war room.
Congress sources familiar with Gandhi’s style and thought said that with the lokpal bill having made it through Parliament, he was now focused on sharpening the anti-corruption agenda by pressing for the passage of all pending bills in the current Lok Sabha, such as the Prevention of Corruption Amendment Bill and the Grievance Redressal Bill.
Also as part of his plans, Gandhi this week appointed Arvinder Singh Lovely as the party’s Delhi chief and Bhupesh Baghel as Chhattisgarh PCC chief. Haryana and Rajasthan are likely to be next. Corporate affairs minister Sachin Pilot has not yet agreed to the proposal to make him Rajasthan PCC chief following the party’s poor show in the recently concluded state polls while Lok Sabha MP and Dalit leader Ashok Tanwar is a strong contender for the Haryana PCC chief’s post.
Video: Jayanthi Natarajan resigns as environment minister