The full text of the letter published in The Hindu today, states that Natarajan was victimised by her colleagues and that she had suffered mental agony for a very long time.She also takes on Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi in the letter
Here is the full text of the letter:
Hon'ble Smt. Sonia Gandhi,
President, Indian National Congress
November 5, 2014
Madam, I write to you with a very heavy heart. Over the last
11 months, I have 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
As I write today, more than 30 years of my loyal, faithful,
and dedicated service to our party stand destroyed and in shambles
around me. My entire career is ruined, and above all, the sacred
and venerable legacy of my family, which served our nation and
party with immense distinction, and patriotism stands in danger of
being tarnished. As you are aware, I am a fourth generation
Three generations before me, fought for the independence of
our country from the British, and spent many long years in jail,
along with other stalwarts of the freedom movement. After
independence, my family served the country and the Congress party
with great dedication, and my grandfather who was the last Congress
Chief Minister of the State, my aunt who was a selfless social
worker, have etched the name of my family in the annals of our
history as patriots and nationalists.
I myself have served the Congress party from 1984, have been a four time MP, and a former Minister of State, without a single blemish on my reputation, in terms of integrity in public life, and my loyalty to my party and my country.
Thirty years later, for no fault of mine, I find that my own
small work, and the glorious legacy of my family stand ruined. I am
still unable to understand what I have done wrong, or what crime I
have committed to have been treated like this in the party I have
faithfully served so long. I want to categorically state that I
have always been a loyal, sincere dedicated party worker,
implicitly obeying the orders of my leaders. I have always carried
out any task assigned to me with sincerity and dedication, and have
never been guilty of any wrongdoing of any kind, in my public and
In these circumstances, the disaster which happened to me on
the December 20, 2013, was a thunderbolt, which hit me from the
blue and destroyed my life. Until now, I have been unable to
understand what was wrongdoing was committed by me to suddenly
receive what was virtually a sentence of death.
I want to place on record, that from December 20, 2013,
until now, I have still not been told by you, why I was asked to
resign from the Council of Ministers, nor have I ever been asked or
given an opportunity to explain, if indeed I had committed any
wrongdoing. On the other hand, the then Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan
Singh wrote a letter to me, accepting my resignation, in which he
praised the excellent work I had done as Minister, and what he
termed my valuable contribution as Minister.
In these circumstances, it was clearly not the Prime
Minister nor my work in Government, which led to my ouster as
Minister. Thus it still baffles me, why I was humiliated so
To recall the sequence of events, I would like to record,
that I was carrying out my duties as Minister of State (I/C)
Environment and Forests in the routine course, when suddenly that
day on December 20, 2013, the then PM, Dr. Manmohan Singh summoned
me to his office. When I entered he stood up from his chair,
looking tense and grim, and uttered these exact words. He said
"Jayanthi, I have been told by Congress President, that your
services are required for party work." I was puzzled, and I said,
"Yes Sir. So what should I do?" He replied, "She wants you to
resign." I was shocked and said, "Resign Sir? But when?" He replied
"Today." I once again asked him if this was what the Congress
president wished. He answered in the affirmative.
Unsuspecting, and trusting you totally, I did not utter a
single word, but smiled at him and said I would comply with the
wishes of the Congress President.
I was so guile free, that I honestly believed that you
wanted me to work for the party, and that it was an honour to be so
chosen. I did not for a second at that time, imagine the
consequences of resigning just 100 days before the elections were
due, and what would lie in store for me in the future. I trusted
you with my life, and even more importantly, with my reputation, my
career and the legacy of my family.
Thereafter, I asked for time to meet you. However, I was
told that I could talk to you on the telephone. During our
conversation I repeated what the Prime Minister told me, and you
reiterated that I should resign and do Party work.
Within half an hour of meeting the then Prime Minister, I sent in my letter of resignation, stating that I would like to resign from the office of Minister, due to my desire to devote myself to party work, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. As mentioned earlier, Dr. Singh immediately accepted my resignation, and in that letter profusely lauded my contribution to the government.
The next day my resignation was headlines in the media, and
all the initial reports correctly reported that I had stepped down
for party work. By the afternoon, to my shock, I 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.
My sources were impeccable, and I felt unease. Thereafter,
the media was flooded with negative stories about me. The same day,
namely, the day after I resigned, Shri Rahul Gandhi addressed a
FICCI meeting of industrialists, where he made uncomplimentary
references to delays in environmental clearances, and the adverse
effects upon the economy, and assured the corporate world, that the
party and government would henceforth ensure that there would be no
delays, and bottlenecks for industry.
After being alerted by the media, I saw the entire speech on
YouTube. It was then that some in the media questioned me if I had
been asked to resign immediately, to enable Shri Rahul Gandhi to
address FICCI and the corporate world with the news of my
resignation in the background.
An assurance was sought to be given to the corporate world
that they need no longer worry about environmental clearance delays
and that bottlenecks would be removed, although throughout my very
brief tenure, I strictly followed the laws and rules and tried to
protect the environment, in keeping with the legacy of Smt. Indira
Gandhi and Shri Rajiv Gandhi, who first brought in the Environment
Natarajan: I have defended the party day and night, 24 hours a day
Since I had only followed this line of our party, I could
not understand why I had been asked to resign within half an hour
on the previous day, especially since I had never been told of any
issues prior to December 20, 2013. Some analysts speculated that I
might be projected as the focal point for the perceived failure of
the economy at that time.
What followed was a hysterical vicious false and motivated
campaign against me, in the media, orchestrated entirely by
particular chosen individuals in the party. There was not a single
word of truth in what was said, nor was there a single concrete
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
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
When I returned, in the first week of January 2014, I was
given an appointment to meet you. During our meeting, I explained
my agony to you, over the attack which had been unleashed upon me
and asked what I had done wrong. You replied that the elections
were coming up and I was required for party work.
I told you that the media was keen I should speak to them in
view of the huge speculation over my resignation, but you
specifically told me not to meet the media. From that day until
now, I have honoured that word. But from that day until now, I have
neither been given party work, nor have I been given an opportunity
to meet you, despite several requests.
In fact, later in January, I was again shocked and distressed to receive a telephone call from Ajay Maken, Head of Congress Media cell. He informed me, that my name was being removed from the list of party spokespersons, that the decision was taken "at the highest level" and other work would be assigned to me.
I have served as party spokesperson for over 10 long years
during very difficult times. I have defended the party day and
night, 24 hours a day despite huge domestic problems, including my
mother suffering from a brain tumour, and ultimately dying after
suffering for 3 long years, during which I not only served as her
principal caregiver, but also constantly travelled to Delhi to
serve as party spokesperson, without even being a MP.
My sacrifices, more importantly the sacrifices made by my
family, my parents, and husband, were all for the cause of the
Congress party. I was given an opportunity to serve as Minister for
just over two years, but served the party day and night, for the
last 30 odd years. Throughout, there has never been a blemish upon
In fact apart from hundreds of others, Dr. Manmohan Singh
and you have several times praised me for my work as spokesperson
for the party. I only mentioned this to point out my track record
was perfect, and in ten long years I have not made even one mistake
as spokesperson. It was therefore clearly a deliberate decision to
remove me from the list of spokespersons, and for reasons which are
still unknown to me.
I also feel that I have been pressurised and used to lead issues which I considered wrong. An instance: While I was still a Minister, an important matter which has caused me great agitation is the fact that I was called upon to attack the present Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on what is referred to in the media as ‘Snoopgate.'
Despite the fact that I initially refused, because I thought
that the party should attack Shri Modi on policy and governance and
not drag an unknown woman into a controversy, Shri Ajay Maken
telephoned me on November 16, 2013, while I was on tour and asked
me to come to Delhi immediately to address a press conference on
I expressed my disinclination to do this, and refused the
assignment, mentioning that I was a Minister at that time, and this
should not be taken as the point of view of Government. I suggested
perhaps an Official Spokesperson should do the Press Conference, if
so desired. Shri Maken told me once again, that this was a decision
taken at "the highest level" and that I had no choice in the
After the press conference throughout the controversy which
followed I was told by Shri Maken to fiercely attack Shri Modi, on
TV channels and during debates, although I was otherwise never
fielded in the media after appointment as Minister.
During my tenure as Minister, it was the clear and specific policy of the party, to take all steps to protect the environment, and carry forward the legacy of Smt. Indira Gandhi and Shri Rajiv Gandhi, to preserve the environment, and keep a balance between environment and industry.
As Chairperson NAC, you have written several letters to me
regarding projects in the Environment Ministry, and protection of
tribal rights, and I have always kept you briefed that due care was
being taken by me to protect the environment.
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." Shri Rahul Gandhi went in person to
Niyamgiri Hills in Odisha, and publicly declared to the Dongria
Kondh tribals that he would be their "sipahi" and would not allow
their interests to suffer at the hands of mining giant Vedanta. His
views in the matter were conveyed to me by his office, and I took
great care to ensure that the interests of the tribals were
protected and rejected environmental clearance to Vendanta despite
tremendous pressure from my colleagues in cabinet, and huge
criticism from industry for what was described as "stalling" a Rs.
30,000 crore investment from Vedanta.
Fortunately, my decision was upheld by the Supreme Court.
The same happened in the case of the Adani projects, where I faced
tremendous criticism from within the cabinet and outside, for
stalling investment at a time when the country was going through a
difficult time in terms of the economy.
The complaints of the local fisherfolk and NGOs of
environmental violations in the Adani case were forwarded to me by
Shri Rahul Gandhi's office, and I was told to liaise with Shri
Dipak Babaria in the matter. Occasionally, I apprised Shri Rahul
Gandhi of steps I had taken, and he responded positively. In fact
you have yourself conveyed your concern in this regard in letters
written to me.
In several cases including the stalled GVK power project
regarding the Dhari Devi temple in Himachal Pradesh, the Lavasa
project in Maharashtra, the Nirma cement plant in Gujarat and in
several other cases I was given specific input, to make my
decision. Apart from this Shri Pulok Chatterji, Principal Secretary
to the Prime Minister was in constant touch with me, and officers
of the Ministry in guiding the decisions to be taken by the
Ministry at that time.
So in my decision making I have factored in the party line
despite all criticisms against me and therefore several decisions
of mine were expressly overruled by the Prime
My object in pointing out the above to you is to bring to
your notice that, in several cases the party high command had very
strong views regarding environmental violations. This was the
reason that I repeatedly challenged my colleagues in cabinet, thus
bringing down upon my own head the anger and wrath of the entire
cabinet, and also the entire corporate world. Still, I soldiered on
doing my duty. This is the reason why I am so stunned and shocked
that in the end, I was removed as Minister just 100 days before
elections although I had committed no wrong doing, and none was
pointed out to me, in fact the then Prime Minister praised my work,
while accepting my resignation.
Thereafter, although I repeatedly sought clarification, as
to what wrong doing I was guilty of to have been so brutally
humiliated, and further humiliated by being removed as
Spokesperson, no answer was given to me. Despite my repeated
attempts to meet Shri Rahul Gandhi and you, no appointment was
given to me. Dr. Manmohan Singh, and you, both assured me at the
time of making me resign that my services were required for party
work. No other explanation has been given to me till
After my removal as Minister, there was widespread news
coverage in the Kerala media that my removal was because I had
notified the order on protection of the Western Ghats, the
Kasturirangan Committee report, on December 19, 2013, (just one day
before my removal) which had been bitterly opposed some sections of
society in Kerala, who felt that this order would adversely affect
their economic interests, and had expressed their opposition to the
Prime Minister and to you. Nevertheless, in the interest of
protecting the environment, and pursuant to orders of court, I took
that important decision.
My successor Shri Moily, put my orders on hold.
A few days before I was removed as Minister, I needed to
review the Adani file for some legal issues. When I sent for the
file, I was told that it was "missing." After considerable search,
my officials "found" it, apparently in the washroom of the computer
section, the very day on which I had been asking to resign. Clearly
some officials in my then Ministry did not want to send that file
back to me, for unknown reasons.
Surely you were aware that removing a Minister just one
hundred days before Lok Sabha elections without any wrongdoing
being even alleged against her, and on the contrary, the Prime
Minister lauding my work in writing, would have devastating effects
upon me, my career, everything I have worked for over 30 years, and
above all the patriotic legacy of my family?
Yet this was done to me. I am a mere cog in the wheel, a helpless loyal Congress worker. Just as could be predicted, my reputation, my career and my life now lie in shreds around me. And I have committed no wrong.
Significantly, if indeed I had been guilty of wrongdoing, I
would have been happy to have been given a chance to defend myself,
and I would have emerged pure and transparent and victorious. This
opportunity was not given to me, I was simply told I was required
for party work, but not used for it also making me feel that that
was a euphemism to get me to resign.
Over the last 11 months I have undergone untold mental and
physical agony, as a result of this incident. I have major health
issues due to my tension and humiliation over the treatment meted
out to me, and my future looks bleak. More importantly, I need to
save the legacy of my family or children and my future generations
will not forgive me.
You may wonder why I write to you now, which I have decided
to do after 4 months of prayer and contemplation. I wish to record
that I tried several times to meet Shri Rahul Gandhi and you, but
was not given an appointment. During our last meeting, and only
meeting after my resignation, you instructed me to avoid the
Until today I have followed your instructions. Just two days
ago, Shri Vasan left the Congress and formed his own party. It was
only on the day before Shri Vasan left, that I received my first
ever communication from AICC in the form of a telephone call from
Shri Motilal Vora, who wanted to know what my stand was regarding
Shri Vasan, and what my future course of action would
Until Shri Vasan left, nobody even spoke to me. This was the
reason that people began to speculate that I had become a scapegoat
for the economic problems of the UPA government. However, whatever
is said now, the damage to my reputation has been complete and
devastating. And future generations of my family will not forgive
me if I do not set the record straight.
I have therefore chosen this time to write to you. I am
doing it after four months of prayers and contemplation and coming
to the conclusion that I need to write to you the truth which you
know as much as I do. While there is considerable
churning going on in the party now, my own problems however are far
deeper, and are both in relation to the party in general, and how I
have been treated.
Madam, most respectfully, I request you to kindly let me
know at least now, what wrongdoing I am alleged to have committed
to be subject to such repeated humiliation. If indeed I am alleged
to have done anything wrong, I do not understand the reason why
this was not placed before me, and why I was not given an
opportunity to defend myself for 11 long months.
I am sure you will understand how important it is for me to protect my reputation and that of my family. Without a single word being said I have been humiliated for 11 months. I would be grateful if you would be so gracious as to at least understand my anguish.
- Jayanthi Natarajan