Humiliation and suffocation force me to quit :Natarajan
"I cannot continue in this suffocation, I resign as a primary member of the Congress," she told a press conference here hours after her letter to Congress President Sonia Gandhi kicked up a storm in media and political circles.
In the letter, shot off on November 5, 2014 Natarajan had suggested that it was at the behest of party vice president Rahul Gandhi that she was forced to quit her ministry in 2013, 100 days before the general elections and she is yet to be provided a reason for her sudden expulsion from party affairs.
The 60-year-old politician also said she was extremely hurt by the manner in which she was treated.
A visibly emotional Natarajan, whose family has deep roots in the Congress, told a press conference that she had been part of the party for 30 years and always followed the party line and the views of the “high command” in deciding on clearances to specific projects.
Reproducing the contents of the letters, reported in a newspaper, Natarajan said her own reputation and the legacy of her illustrious family were lowered by the “ruthless, vilification campaign” launched by some in the Congress.
She said it came as a 'thunderbolt' from the blue when Rahul Gandhi, at a FICCI conference in December 2013, virtually blamed her Ministry for the bottleneck in clearing big projects worth millions.
“Specific inputs were received from the office of Rahul Gandhi based on the representation by NGOs raising environment concerns on certain large projects,” Natarajan said she, suggesting that Gandhi had interfered in the decision making process.
“I have no shame in stating that I was always a Gandhi-family loyalist to the core. I followed instructions devotedly but was let down by the party,” she said.
Reacting to the comment of Congress general secretary, Digvijay Singh, that she was “lying” and that Gandhi would never interfere in the manner stated, Natarajan said she would like to keep the conversation 'civilised' and said she had all the documents in support of her claim.
She, however, reiterated that inputs from Gandhi on the projects were in the nature of forwarding concerns of tribals and activists and denied that there could have been any “corruption” involved in his moves.
Replying a question on whether she would reconsider her decision to quit the party if Sonia Gandhi intervened, Natarajan said it was too late. “I did receive calls over the last week from people close to her asking me to come and meet her in person. But I felt it was too late,” she said.
Commenting on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charge during the Lok Sabha election campaign that industries were suffering a ‘Jayanthi Tax’ to clear their projects, Natarajan challenged him to provide proof for any wrongdoing on her part.
“But when my own party had let me down so miserably, how could I expect the BJP to hold back,” she said.
She said even after her resignation, she "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."
In her letter to Sonia Gandhi, Natarajan had said, "I was never a bottleneck, nor was I ever responsible for unwarranted delays in major projects, and I can prove this at any time. I was shattered by the attack upon me, and bewildered. I wrote a passionate message to Shri Rahul Gandhi, about my removal as Minister, and his speech, at FICCI, and asked him what wrongdoing I had committed to warrant this treatment."
"I said, that I should have been asked for an explanation, IF I had done anything wrong, as even a murderer has his say in court, and here I don’t even know what, if any wrong doing was committed by me. I told him that my family legacy and my name would be forever ruined, and all I had done was my duty. I asked him to tell me, what wrong I had committed. I asked for time to meet him. He replied that he was “running a little busy” at that time, but that he would meet me a little later.
"Despite several requests, that day never came. Not till this minute. I took a break of 10 days, and went to my sister’s home to recover," she wrote.
She said over the last 11 months (till Nov when the letter was written), she had suffered the most excruciating mental agony, and have been continuously attacked, wrongly vilified and defamed in the media, and exposed to every possible humiliation in public life.