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Jayanthi Natarajan quits Congress, seeks probe on approvals

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Chennai, Jan 30 (IANS) Senior Congress leader Jayanthi Natarajan Friday announced her resignation from the party and sought a probe into clearances given during her tenure as union environment minister, saying she had acted on “specific inputs” from Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s office.

“I announce my resignation (from the party),” Natarajan told reporters here.

“I feel that the time has come now for me to rethink my association because what happened in the recent past. The Congress is no longer the Congress that I joined,” said Natarajan who was with the party for over 30 years.

She quit the Congress after writing a letter to Congress party president Sonia Gandhi. She said that as the union environment minister she followed the party line with regard to protection of environment and also to “requests” from Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s office.

“Received several requests and representations from Rahul Gandhi’s office to ensure that the environment is protected,” said Natarajan who was asked to put in her papers Dec 20, 2013 by then prime minister Manmohan Singh.

“And according to these instructions…I did my duty. I had these projects investigated and some of them I stopped,” she said and added that she got “specific inputs” from Rahul Gandhi’s office.

Natarajan said on becoming the environment minister, party president Sonia Gandhi had told her to maintain the Congress tradition of protecting the environment as was done by former prime ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.

Despite withstanding the “anger and wrath of all the colleagues who protested that economic progress was being blocked”, Natarajan said she was rewarded for her diligence with orders to resign from the cabinet.

A visibly miffed Natarajan: “After the Congress, I intend to think about my life and future.”

“I have absolutely no plan to join any party,” she said and added that no BJP leader has met her in this connection.

She welcomed a government probe into environmental clearances given by her and demanded that the probe should be transparent.

“I have to set the record straight to uphold the legacy of my family and my reputation. It has been a bitter experience for me for the past one-and-half years. My own party treated me badly,” she said.

She said many senior members of her family were jailed for participating in the freedom struggle.

Natarajan said that she has sufficient proof of Rahul Gandhi’s specific requests on environmental clearance related to projects. “Let Rahul Gandhi refute it.”

She said she hails from a Congress family and has been “faithful, loyal and utterly loyal to the Gandhi family”.

“Even my mother was seriously ill, I shuttled between Chennai and Delhi as I was the spokesperson of the party,” said Natarajan, a four time member of the Rajya Sabha.

“I would have plunged even into a well if my party had wanted me to do that,” she said.

“Why for a year everyone ruined my reputation” and tarnished the legacy of my family, she asked. “I only followed the rules. Did not break the rules.”

Charging the Congress of letting her down by allowing her name and her family’s name to be tarnished, Natarajan refuted that she had let down the party by not contesting in the recent Lok Sabha polls.

“I was not in a condition to contest the Lok Sabha polls when my name, reputation and my family’s legacy was being tarred,” Natarajan said.

Many senior Congress leaders from Tamil Nadu including former finance minister P. Chidambaram did not contest in the Lok Sabha polls. The Congress party drew a blank in all the 39 seats.

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