In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way
The above quote is popularly attributed to former U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, but not verified. Nevertheless, it echoes my own belief that there are no coincidences in politics – only the illusion thereof, to paraphrase the graphic novelist Alan Moore. This belief was reinforced today by the way the Jayanthi Natarajan episode has spun out.
It began with The Hindu carrying her letter of November 5, 2014, to Congress President Sonia Gandhi. The letter, which has been called a bomb, carried several implications, which may be broadly summarized in the following points.
- That Ms. Natarajan was a long-time loyalist who had for reasons unknown fallen out of favour with the Family and seemingly begged to be restored to that position.
- That her actions as the former Minister for Environment & Forests were stymied by directions from the office of none other than party vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
- That although she had been asked to resign on Dec. 20, 2013, it took her nearly a year to overcome mental anguish and, presumably, summon enough courage to put these questions to the party president, from whose presence she had apparently been banished.
The fact that her letter of Nov. 5 did not become public knowledge until Jan. 30, 2015 – or nearly three months later – pushes out of the background several interesting facts, of which the most crucial seems to be that the CBI had been asked to investigate her activities as MoEF – a fact first reported by the Economic Times on Oct. 29, 2014 – or a mere week before her impassioned plea to Congress High Command.
What is equally interesting is that within a month of the CBI investigation being mooted, Ms. Natarajan supposedly met BJP President Amit Shah, who by now has earned the reputation of bringing into the BJP’s fold defectors of all shades and stripes. Among the revelations in Ms. Natarajan’s letter was her singular refusal to attack, prior to the General Elections of 2014, Narendra Modi on the surveillance scandal that became famous as Snoopgate. As the journalist Nikhil Wagle asked on Twitter, was the meeting with Mr. Shah about this, rather than, say, a possible swapping of political colours?
All this was an unnoticed swirling that came to a heady climax on January 30, 2015, with Ms. Natarajan announcing her decision to quit the Congress within hours of her letter being publicized. The Hindu’s Editor Malini Parthasarathy called the publication of the letter “a scoop”, but given how conveniently timed it was vis-à-vis Ms. Natarajan’s resignation from the Congress, it appears more likely that The Hindu simply made space for not just the letter to be published, but to give Ms. Natarajan wide-ranging coverage.
The ruling BJP’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had been the first to react, calling for the current MoEF (Prakash Javadekar) to “relook” at Ms. Natarajan’s decisions during her stint, while also jumping the gun in suggesting he had no clue if she was due to join the BJP. The party also later claimed that Mr. Shah had never met Ms. Natarajan, nor had any other leader. The Congress, as reported by PTI, called Ms. Natarajan’s allegations “serious”, but pointed to her “new political masters” as being motivators for the same.
Another journalist, Nitin Sethi, interviewed Ms. Natarajan and subsequently shed more light on her alleging that while neither Sonia nor Rahul Gandhi had asked her to do favours, other Congress ministers did so. The latest news suggests that while the Congress is for the most part no longer commenting on the issue, the CBI too seems indifferent in terms of launching an immediate probe against her. Whether the issue has any political fallout for the beleaguered Congress, and whether we will see Ms. Natarajan, despite her own statement, join the likes of Kiran Bedi and others in migrating to the BJP, remains to be seen. The Kashmiri political commentator Ibn-e-Battuta’s tweet may be seen as the last word, thus far, on the issue.