By Santwana Bhattacharya
Published: 22nd Dec 2013 07:27:39 AM
If the commotion, the crowded car parks and the winding queue of OB-vans outside 12 Tuglaq Lane—Rahul Gandhi’s office-cum-residence—is compared to the relative lull outside 10, Janpath, the Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s official residence, the scene of action has shifted in the last few weeks.
In this backdrop of a “fundamental’’ change in the top echelons of the Congress came Jayanthi Natarajan’s resignation from Minister of State for Environment and Forests position. As it became known on Saturday morning that Natarajan has quit the government for party work, there was little doubt in anyone’s mind who had called the shots: Vice President Rahul Gandhi.
Natarajan’s resignation was promptly accepted by President Pranab Mukherjee and her portfolio given over to oil minister M Veerappa Moily as additional charge, without delay; party sources said she was asked to return to party work. It is expected that she would be working with Rahul on the party’s 2014 manifesto and other election-related matters.
A three-time Rajya Sabha MP, Natarajan’s exit was on the cards. Early December, Kerala CM Oommen Chandy and PCC chief Ramesh Chennithala were assured by the Vee-Pee that he would look into their concerns in view of protests against the Environment Ministry’s in-principle approval to the Kasturirangan Committee report banning all activities, from mining to farming, in the Western Ghats. By Friday, the MoEF put out an order rolling back the decision and by Saturday Natarajan’s exit note was accepted. Surprisingly, hours later addressing a FICCI meet Rahul Gandhi said, “I’m sure you cannot have a situation where the Environment Minister (quickly adding)—or a CM alone takes decisions on your projects.”