Jayanthi Natrajan Quits Congress: Revolt Against Rahul Gandhi?

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In what seems to be a never-ending trail of allegations against the Congress Party, Senior Congress member, Jayanthi Natrajan, has quit the Congress, citing reasons of interference by the party Vice President, Rahul Gandhi in the environmental ministry when she was in office.

Of course, allegations of extra-constitutional interference by the Gandhis in governmental matters are hardly unheard of. What is absolutely shocking about this episode, however, is that Jayanthi Natrajan was a fourth generation Congress worker in her family and was hitherto known to be a staunch loyalist of the Gandhi family, and hence such allegations coming from her may leave the Gandhis particularly red-faced.

Natrajan sent an explosive letter to party President, Sonia Gandhi, November last year, informing her of the “specific requests” made by Rahul to her. In the letter, she says she has been suffering extreme “mental agony” since the last 11 months and has been “wrongly vilified” and “defamed” in the media.

According to her, she was asked for a resignation in the most abrupt manner, stating that she was needed by Sonia Gandhi for “party work”. While at the time of her resignation in December 2013, Natrajan claimed that she had resigned “on her own” in the letter to Sonia Gandhi, she writes that she is still unaware of the reasons behind her “removal”.

Soon after her resignation, she says, stories began to be planted in the media by Rahul Gandhi’s office that her resignation was not for party work, leaving her completely baffled. Thereafter, “a hysterical vicious false and motivated campaign” was orchestrated against her in the media. She further claims that she was asked to not speak to the media by Sonia Gandhi. Later, she received a call from Ajay Maken, who informed her that her name was being removed from the list of party spokespersons, and that this decision came from the “highest level”.

She further alleged that due to her undying loyalty to the party, she often went against her own principles. On the issue of the “Snoopgate”, for example, she expressed her disinclination to attack the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, on personal matters. However, she was informed that she had little choice in the matter.

As far as her work in the ministry is concerned, she argues that she always toed the party line by keeping a balance between environment and industry, even as she faced resentment from her own cabinet and heavy criticism from the media, for stalling investment. The letter says, “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.” However, Rahul Gandhi, she says, suddenly went from his pro-environmentalist position to a corporate-friendly one just when the elections were round the corner. Subsequently, she was made a scapegoat for the economic problems of the UPA.

In an interview to NDTV’s Barkha Dutt, she said that she received no response to the letter from the party leadership, until she spoke of going to the media. However, at the same time, she clarified that the letter was not leaked to The Hindu by her. This raises serious questions about who exactly could be responsible for leaking the letter, and whether disillusioned and alienated Congress insiders could be responsible for it.

The Bhartiya Janta Party, taking full advantage of the situation, has argued that what was rumored so far has been established as true. Addressing the media this morning, Arun Jaitley accused the Congress party of practicing crony-capitalism and sadistic economics that is fundamentally vindictive in nature. There were delays in projects due to the whims of party leaders, as a result of which the country has suffered for a decade, Jaitley argued.

Congress spokesperson, Sanjay Nirupam, however, has accused Natrajan of putting false allegations on Rahul Gandhi in order to make headlines.

Whether the Gandhis choose to come out and respond to these explosive allegations, remains to be seen. Further what remains to be seen is whether this would prove to be an onset of a larger revolt against the Congress party leadership, particularly Rahul Gandhi, by Congress members. Will many others follow suit or would Congress continue to remain a pack of sycophants that it has long known to be?

You can read the full letter here.

Sanya Dhingra

Image Source: [http://www.apnewscorner.com/images/news/2013/12/21/Jayanthi%20Natarajan.jpg]