Jayanthi Natarajan, former union minister and a long-time Congress leader from Tamil Nadu, sparked controversy today when she alleged, in a damning letter, that she was pressurised by the party to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the ‘snoop-gate’ issue during the 2014 general elections. She also announced her decision to resign from the primary membership of the party at a formal press conference in Chennai.
“While I was still a Minister, an important matter which has caused me great agitation is the fact that I was called upon to attack the present Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on what is referred to in the media as ‘Snoopgate’,” she is quoted as saying in the letter addressed to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, which was published by The Hindu.
Prior to the elections, the Congress had raised ‘snoop-gate’, the term used by the media for a case of alleged spying by the Gujarat government on a young woman when Modi was the chief minister of the state in 2009.
“Despite the fact that I initially refused, because I thought that the party should attack Shri Modi on policy and governance and not drag an unknown woman into a controversy, Shri Ajay Maken telephoned me on November 16, 2013, while I was on tour and asked me to come to Delhi immediately to address a press conference on the issue,” she wrote. She goes on to explain that she expressed her reluctance to do it, especially because she was a minister at that time.
“Shri Maken told me once again, that this was a decision taken at “the highest level” and that I had no choice in the matter,” she is quoted saying.
Natarajan’s explosive remarks on the case is likely to embroil the Congress in a tough position at a time when the party is facing an erosion of leaders from its ranks and successive defeats in state elections. In the letter, Natarajan has questioned Gandhi as to why she was not given an explanation from the leadership for asking her to abruptly resign just months before the general elections.