In an exclusive scoop, The Hindu has published a letter written by former Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, where she has alleged that she was scapegoated for the economic problems of the UPA government a day before Rahul Gandhi assured industrialists that there would be no delays and bottlenecks for industry.
The letter sheds light on the inner workings of the party and the UPA government with unprecedented level of detail and clarity. Through it, she portrays her agony at being sacked as a minister and subsequently removed as party spokesperson while nobody told her what wrongdoing she was guilty of. She says in the letter that sacking her 100 days before the general elections accompanied by a whisper campaign in the media, her career and the legacy of her family had been destroyed.
More importantly, the letter portrays how the Congress leadership--Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi--through "requests" and "inputs" were directly pulling the strings on key policy decisions relating to specific projects, such as the Vendanta project in Orissa.
Here are some of the most explosive quotes from the letter, written on 5 November 2014.
- "To recall the sequence of events, I would like to record, that I was carrying out my duties as Minister of State (I/C) Environment and Forests in the routine course, when suddenly that day on December 20, 2013, the then PM, Dr. Manmohan Singh summoned me to his office. When I entered he stood up from his chair, looking tense and grim, and uttered these exact words. He said “Jayanthi, I have been told by Congress President, that your services are required for party work.” I was puzzled, and I said, “Yes Sir. So what should I do?” He replied, “She wants you to resign.” I was shocked and said, “Resign Sir? But when?” He replied “Today.” I once again asked him if this was what the Congress president wished. He answered in the affirmative. Unsuspecting, and trusting you totally, I did not utter a single word, but smiled at him and said I would comply with the wishes of the Congress President."
- During my tenure as Minister, it was the clear and specific policy of the party, to take all steps to protect the environment, and carry forward the legacy of Smt. Indira Gandhi and Shri Rajiv Gandhi, to preserve the environment, and keep a balance between environment and industry. As Chairperson NAC, you have written several letters to me regarding projects in the Environment Ministry, and protection of tribal rights, and I have always kept you briefed that due care was being taken by me to protect the environment. 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.”
- What followed was a hysterical vicious false and motivated campaign against me, in the media, orchestrated entirely by particular chosen individuals in the party.
- By the afternoon, to my shock, 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.
- I strictly followed the laws and rules and tried to protect the environment, in keeping with the legacy of Smt. Indira Gandhi and Shri Rajiv Gandhi, who first brought in the Environment Protection Act. Since I had only followed this line of our party, I could not understand why I had been asked to resign within half an hour on the previous day, especially since I had never been told of any issues prior to December 20, 2013.
- While I was still a Minister, an important matter which has caused me great agitation is the fact that I was called upon to attack the present Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on what is referred to in the media as ‘Snoopgate.’
- Shri Maken told me once again, that this was a decision taken at “the highest level” and that I had no choice in the matter. After the press conference throughout the controversy which followed I was told by Shri Maken to fiercely attack Shri Modi, on TV channels and during debates, although I was otherwise never fielded in the media after appointment as Minister.
- The complaints of the local fisherfolk and NGOs of environmental violations in the Adani case were forwarded to me by Shri Rahul Gandhi’s office, and I was told to liaise with Shri Dipak Babaria in the matter.
- In several cases including the stalled GVK power project regarding the Dhari Devi temple in Himachal Pradesh, the Lavasa project in Maharashtra, the Nirma cement plant in Gujarat and in several other cases I was given specific input, to make my decision.
- A few days before I was removed as Minister, I needed to review the Adani file for some legal issues. When I sent for the file, I was told that it was “missing.” After considerable search, my officials “found” it, apparently in the washroom of the computer section, the very day on which I had been asking to resign.
- When I returned, in the first week of January 2014, I was given an appointment to meet you. During our meeting, I explained my agony to you, over the attack which had been unleashed upon me and asked what I had done wrong. You replied that the elections were coming up and I was required for party work. I told you that the media was keen I should speak to them in view of the huge speculation over my resignation, but you specifically told me not to meet the media. From that day until now, I have honoured that word. But from that day until now, I have neither been given party work, nor have I been given an opportunity to meet you, despite several requests.