Jayanti’s remarks over Vedanta hots up politics

Bhubaneswar: Political parties in the State, barring Congress, today left no chances in criticizing the leadership of the beleaguered party following the revelations of Jayanthi Natrajan, who was Environment minister during the UPA regime, about Rahul Gandhi’s interference resulting in denial of ecological clearance to Vedanta’s bauxite mining project in Niyamgiri Hills in Kalahandi district.

Pouncing on erstwhile Congress-led UPA government, BJD spokesperson Rabi Nanda said, “Truth can never hide. Finally, Congress’ plan to destroy Odisha’s economy is evidenced from Natrajan’s statement. Vednata brought factory here to give jobs to unemployed youth. However, denial of environmental clearance by the UPA government to the project gave jolt to Vedanta as well as the State.”

However, in a guarded reaction, BJP spokesperson Suresh Pujari said, “The recent development is an internal affair of the Congress. Moreover, there is nothing new about Natrajan’s allegations of interference from Rahul and Sonia Gandhi in the affairs of Union ministries during UPA government at the Centre.”

Sharpening his attack, he said Rahul and Sonia were acting as extra-constitutional authorities in previous UPA government. “The government should be allowed to function as per the statutes, otherwise democracy will be harmed,” Pujari added.

On his part, senior Congress leader Bhakta Charan Das questioned the depth of the issue. “Everything happened as per law. Why this ‘pressure’ issue is being raised now?” he sought to know.

“In the letter to Sonia Gandhi, she (Natrajan) had written about the reasons why Adivasis are having rights on land and mine. You people must have noticed the decision of 12 gram sabhas and the Supreme Court. There was no pressure at all,” he retorted.

Echoing similar sentiments, former Congress MP Pradeep Majhi said, “Rahulji had already taken a stand to protect interests of tribals under any circumstance. So, I think Rahulji might have spoken to her about the Niyamgiri issue. I see nothing wrong in it.”

Majhi added the Congress vice-president had assured the tribals he would defend their rights in Delhi.

“The Supreme Court also asked the tribal affairs ministry to hold gram sabhas (village meetings) in Niyamgiri area to take views of the local residents. The tribals also rejected the mining proposal of Vedanta to mine on the hills,” said Majhi.

Earlier in the day, Natarajan said during a media briefing that she had received definite indication from Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to reject environmental clearance to Vedanta’s bauxite mining plan at Niyamgiri.

Natarajan, who also quit Congress, in the letter said, “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’.”