In a blow to Congress, former Environment minister Jayanathi Natarajan on Friday quit the party and mounted a scathing attack on Rahul Gandhi, claiming that she followed his directions on green nod to projects but was “vilified, humiliated and sidelined” by central leadership.
A longtime Congress loyalist, Natarajan said she was ready to face probe into environmental clearance accorded by her during her stint as minister in the UPA government and has no plans to join any other political party after “such bitter experiences”.
“I have only followed the party line and rule book on all environment issues. To protect the forest rights of people and the rights of tribals in cases like Vedanata. There was no wrong doing on my part,” she asserted at a hurriedly called press conference.
Natrajan said she cannot continue in the “suffocating atmosphere” in the party.
Virtually opening a can of worms, she accused Rahul Gandhi’s office of planting stories to sully her reputation after she had resigned as Environment Minister on the direction of Sonia Gandhi.
“Specific inputs were received from the office of Rahul Gandhi based on the representation by NGOs raising environment concerns on certain large projects,” she said suggesting that the Congress Vice-President had interfered in the decision making process.
“I have done no wrong. I am willing to be hanged or go to jail if any concrete proof of my wrongdoing is established,” Natarajan said.
She also said that as a minister in UPA-II, she did not want to attack Narendra Modi on snoopgate issue but was told that the party at the highest level wanted her to do so.
“I intend to think on my life and future. I have no plans to join any other party,” she declared when asked about her future political plans.
Ruing that she was not given a hearing by the top leadership after a flurry of media reports carrying “insinuation and innuendo” against her, the Congress leader downplayed the “Jayanthi Tax” barb from BJP’s then Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi saying that when her own party treated her so badly, how can she blame someone who was in Opposition.
“If my own party treats me so badly. Why should I blame him? He was in opposition. If Modi is talking of Jayanthi tax, let them investigate.
“Let the CBI investigate. I welcome it. I look forward to it because it will give me an opportunity to explain my position,” Natarajan said.
The Tamil Nadu leader made it clear that she has no problems with the state Congress unit.
Natarajan, who was a fourth generation Congress leader from her family, said that it was “extremely painful and very heartrending day” for her when things have to come to a position where she has to disassociate herself from the Congress party.
She significantly added “Congress is no longer the same Congress that I had joined”.