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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?

Nikhil Wagle on Jayanthi Natarajan meeting Amit Shah
Nikhil Wagle on Jayanthi Natarajan meeting Amit Shah

 

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.

 

Malini Parthasarathy on Jayanthi Natarajan letter published in The Hindu
Malini Parthasarathy on Jayanthi Natarajan letter published in The Hindu

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.

PTI_Cong_CorruptionPTI_Cong_Masters

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.

PTI_Natarajan_NoPlansIbnEBattuta_Bedi_Natarajan

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This morning, I woke up to a serious Twitter brouhaha which emanated from The Hindu carrying a letter by former Min. for Environment & Forests Jayanthi Natarajan to Congress President Sonia Gandhi. The letter was originally dated November 5, 2014, which made me wonder why it was being leaked at this later date. However, as the day progressed, and more news links from the past floated on Twitter, the episode became abundantly clear. Here’s a friendly timeline, with links, for those who came in late, or don’t see the big picture.

Oct. 29, 2014: Economic Times reports an impending CBI enquiry into Natarajan’s tenure as MoEF under UPA-II.

Nov. 5, 2014: Natarajan writes her now public letter to Mrs. Gandhi, published by the Hindu today.

Nov. 27, 2014: Natarajan meets Amit Shah, as reported in this news clip by India News.

Jan. 30, 2015: Arun Jaitley calls for new MoEF to re-look decisions taken by Natarajan, but claims no knowledge of her joining BJP.

Jan. 30, 2015: Natarajan quits Congress

Now waiting for the last act: her actually joining BJP. Expect it to happen today or tomorrow, but don’t hold your breath!

 

PS: I have no plans to join any other political party after such bitter experiences: Natarajan says (PTI reports)

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ENVIRONMENT DAY IN SUPREME COURT

By: Vijay Panjwani, Advocate.

 

Two different Hon’ble Benches showed interest in moving on with the dusty files placed before them for directions. In a departure from the line ‘this is not our job’ to ‘its taken years someone must do something ‘. In the first case while dealing with the custom duty non-payment problem of import of dirty hazardous waste oil in very costly stainless steel, the court’s attention was drawn to the issue of contaminated ground water in Bhopal DoW Chemical/UCC plant. After the world’s largest gas leak disaster in 1984 slowly hazardous water from the contaminated plant has contaminated ground water table. Therefore, no ground water can be drawn for human consumption. It did not take long for the court to grasp the situation begging remedial action. Considering all aspects the court directed Central Pollution Control Board to inspect the site and file an inspection report before 18th April, 2012. The report would show the cause and the extent of contamination. CPCB normally gives its recommendations in all reports for remedial measures to be taken to restore the ground water quality to comply to prescribed environmental standards. The only problem is that the order of 28th has not been uploaded in Supreme Court website till 5-30 PM Friday 30th March 2012. In the absence of copy of order no action can be taken. The next week has four days off thursday to sunday, signs of in-built delays.

Then came the turn of supply of highly polluted drinking water from Bhopal Municipal Corporation [ Nagar Nigam] to neighbourhood residents of UCC/DoW plant. It is alleged that the water pipe is laid near the open drain [Naali] carrying kitchen and bathroom waste water. The waste water leaks into the pipeline making the water supply sometimes normal and at times foul smelling. Complaints have not rectified the situation. CPCB would be looking in this too. Besides the State Government and Nagar Nigam have been directed to remove the contamination in the ground water and to ensure safe pollutant free drinking water supply within two weeks. Strangely neither counsel nor any officer was present in court during the 90 minute proceedings on behalf of the state or nagar nigam. On general inquiry from courtroom full of lawyers none answered the call and this was recorded in the order. Such unconcern and bravado is not seen every day.

In the second case a large copper manufacturer was directed to dispose of gypsum dust and gypsum sludge only to ‘need based’ customers. The purchaser has to prove an on-going road or brick making project or any other lawful use for safe disposal. The bunch of lawyers did not take it gracefully but then tomorrow is always a new day and we get back into normal mode.

END.