Jayanthi's surprise exit reinforces speculation

Jayanthi's surprise exit reinforces speculation

Jayanthi's surprise exit reinforces speculation

Jayanthi Natarajan may continue to insist that she resigned from the post of Environment Minister to work for her party, but statements from senior Congress leaders reinforce the speculation that her exit from the Cabinet was a punishment.

“In view of the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, I would like to devote my time to party work, and hence this decision,” Natarajan said in her resignation letter to the prime minister dated December 20. The prime minister had forwarded the letter to President Pranab Mukherjee on the same day.

It is learnt that a top industrial house as well as some public sector undertakings had complained to the government against the functioning of the Environment Ministry due to which several projects were held up.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his address to the Congress Parliamentary Party on Wednesday, had admitted that clearances had slowed down, affecting large infrastructure projects. He had also said efforts were being made to remove these bottlenecks.

Denial mode

“No projects have been put on hold. No projects at all. I quit the government 100 per cent for party work. No other reasons,” Natarajan said on Sunday, dismissing the speculation.
Interestingly, within hours of her resignation on Saturday, Congress vice-president
Rahul Gandhi also acknowledged that the loopholes in environmental clearances were so big that “you could drive a truck through some of them”.

Natarajan’s resignation is also seen by many as a signal of assurance to the industry representatives who had expressed their “frustration” over “undue” delay in green clearances to projects.

The resignation of 59-year-old Natarajan, who was one of the spokespersons of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) before being elevated to the Council of Ministers, did come as a surprise as it was not being talked about in the run-up to the revamp of the Congress in the aftermath of the party’s defeat in three states and Delhi. While the possible resignations of Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, Corporate Affairs Minister Sachin Pilot and Sports Minister Jitendra Singh are being talked about in political circles, Natarajan’s name was not the one doing the rounds.

Natarajan is from Tamil Nadu and has been a member of the Rajya Sabha for four terms. The Congress has little organisational presence in Tamil Nadu.

On earlier occasions, Union ministers have quit the government to take up party work. Recently, Mukul Wasnik and Ambika Sonia had quit their ministerial berths. While Wasnik also held the post of AICC General Secretary, Soni was made one in June and assigned the coveted responsibility.