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Jayanthi Natarajan quits Congress, says can't continue in 'suffocating atmosphere'

Former UPA Minister Jayanthi Natarajan quit the Congress party on Friday after spending almost four decades in the party alleging she was humiliated and dumped unceremoniously from the environment ministry for no fault of hers.

india Updated: Jan 30, 2015 13:11 IST
KV Lakshmana
KV Lakshmana
Hindustan Times
Jayanthi Natarajan,Congress,Sonia Gandhi

Former Union environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan quit the Congress on Friday after spending almost four decades in the party alleging she was humiliated and dumped unceremoniously from the environment ministry for no fault of hers.

Natarajan addressed a press conference in Chennai where she resigned from the party formally, saying she cannot continue in "suffocating atmosphere".

Natarajan in an explosive letter to the AICC president Sonia Gandhi has accused vice-president Rahul Gandhi of meddling in the environment ministry's affairs.News channels reported she has already put in her papers.

This is by far the most damning accusation by a former UPA minister, who was criticised by the opposition and the then BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi of charging a 'Natarajan tax' for environmental clearances during the campaign for the 2014 general elections.

"My entire career is ruined, and above all, the sacred and venerable legacy of my family, which served our nation and party with immense distinction, and patriotism stands in danger of being tarnished," Natarajan said in her letter to Sonia Gandhi, written on November 5, 2014.

"I am still unable to understand what I have done wrong, or what crime I have committed to have been treated like this in the party I have faithfully served so long. I want to categorically state that I have always been a loyal, sincere dedicated party worker, implicitly obeying the orders of my leaders. I have always carried out any task assigned to me with sincerity and dedication, and have never been guilty of any wrongdoing of any kind, in my public and personal life," she wrote in her letter.

Smarting under her unceremonious sacking from the environment ministry, Natarajan said she has not been till date given the reason as to why she was dropped from the ministry.

"I want to place on record, that from December 20, 2013, until now, I have still not been told by you, why I was asked to resign from the Council of Ministers, nor have I ever been asked or given an opportunity to explain, if indeed I had committed any wrongdoing. On the other hand, the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh wrote a letter to me, accepting my resignation, in which he praised the excellent work I had done as minister, and what he termed my valuable contribution as minister. In these circumstances, it was clearly not the Prime Minister nor my work in Government, which led to my ouster as minister. Thus it still baffles me, why I was humiliated so brutally," said Natarajan.

She has written that she received "specific requests" from Rahul Gandhi on environmental clearances and made sure she followed them. She repeatedly says that she took decisions in line with party diktat adding that these were guided by the Prime Minister's Office.

"I received specific requests [which used to be directives for us] from Shri Rahul Gandhi and his office forwarding environmental concerns in some important areas and I took care to honour those requests," Natarajan said in her letter, which is being construed as a farewell letter by political analysts.

She alleged she had become a victim of a "vicious, false and motivated" media campaign by particular, chosen individuals in the party after Rahul Gandhi shifted from his pro-environmental position to a corporate-friendly one during the campaign for Lok Sabha elections.

"I received information that persons from the office of Shri Rahul Gandhi were calling the media and planting stories that my resignation was NOT for party work."

"What followed was a hysterical vicious false and motivated campaign against me, in the media, orchestrated entirely by particular chosen individuals in the party. There was not a single word of truth in what was said, nor was there a single concrete fact."

Natarajan had resigned in December 2013, months before the 2014 general elections and the Congress had then claimed that she would instead focus on party work.

First Published: Jan 30, 2015 09:43 IST