The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party Monday clashed over a remark by BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi that under Jayanthi Natarajan, the environment ministry charged a “tax” to clear files.
The first to lead the attack on Modi was Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh.
“Modi’s comment on Jayanthi Natarajan is in a very bad taste. Should be condemned. He only knows to abuse but doesn’t give his Vision,” Digvijaya Singh tweeted.
“Modi always keeps misquoting things and lying. He should either prove his allegations against Jayanthi Natarajan or he should apologise,” he added.
Congress leader Ambika Soni said how could anyone “insult a minister” who has done such good work.
“This shows how much Narendra Modi respects women,” she told reporters.
In a rally in Goa capital Panaji Sunday, Modi said that no file moved in the environment ministry without “Jayanthi tax”.
The former environment minister was quick to react, saying that she will not be “intimidated by what he (Modi) has to say”.
On Monday, Natarajan said Modi was targeting her as she has been at the forefront against his “divisive and destructive politics”.
BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman, meanwhile, said Modi’s statement was not an off-the-cuff remark.
“The remark was made because the environment ministry went to the extent of questioning the Supreme Court when the centrally empowered committee was being formed on the suggestion of the apex court so that there is greater transparency in the ministry,” Sitharaman told media persons.
“Wasn’t it the MoEF (ministry of environment and forests) questioning the decision? If they did not want the committee, why were so many decisions pending in the ministry?” Sitharaman asked.
Sitharaman also alleged that during the former environment minister’s tenure, the ministry concentrated on maintaining green cover rather than on development, while in some cases they were cherry-picking and selectively giving clearances on interest rather than on environment protection.
BJP’s Balbir Punj also said that hundreds of files were pending during Natarajan’s regime.
Petroleum Minister M. Verappa Moily replaced Jayanthi Natarajan and took charge of the ministry of environment and forests Dec 24.
The former environment minister earlier dismissed reports that her removal was because she held up clearances to development projects and said she resigned on her own Dec 21.