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Manmohan Singh wakes up,removes Jayanthi roadblock

Rahul Gandhi said to be instrumental in resignation of environment minister who was seen by India Inc as major obstacle.

Written by D K Singh | New Delhi |
December 22, 2013 1:04:07 pm

Jolted by the recent electoral drubbing that was attributed to the UPA government’s non-performance and indecisiveness,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday cracked the whip,ensuring the resignation of Environment & Forests Minister (Independent charge) Jayanthi Natarajan.

The move,signalling the government’s intent to remove bottlenecks in the decision-making process,came ahead of Rahul Gandhi’s address to India Inc. Sources said the Congress vice-president was instrumental in Natarajan’s ouster and that several batches of industrialists had met Rahul in recent times and singled out the environment ministry for having vitiated the investment climate though “arbitrary objections” and “rent-seeking”.

The PM was learnt to have summoned Natarajan on Friday evening and asked her to put in her papers,although it was projected on Saturday as her decision,to move from the government to the party ahead of general elections. Petroleum Minister Veerappa Moily was given additional charge of her portfolio.

At his India Inc address,Rahul seemed to echo,at least in spirit,their concerns about the “slow decision-making” process in the government.

In her resignation letter,Natarajan attributed her decision to her desire to do party work. In his response,the Prime Minister said,“You have been a valued colleague and I thank you for your contribution. I am sure that your work for our party,for which you are leaving the government,will also be of immense value. I wish you all success in your future endeavours.”

However,Congress sources explained that while some ministers are likely to be drafted for party work in the next few weeks,Natarajan’s case was “different” and unrelated to this plan.

In his maiden address to the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting last Wednesday,the Prime Minister had conceded the slow decision-making process in his government and hinted about a course correction. “We should also frankly accept that there have been domestic problems also (for economic slowdown). Clearances have slowed down,which has affected large infrastructure projects… We are trying to overcome these bottlenecks… We are beginning to have an impact,but it will take time to show. In retrospect,we should have done this one year earlier but let us recognise that correction is now underway,” he had said.

Singh had also stated that the party should not “simply talk of firm leadership and decisiveness without talking of what the leadership will be used for and what decisions will be taken”.

The Prime Minister was said to have wanted to drop Natarajan or at least change her portfolio in the Cabinet reshuffle held last June,but had failed to get the political backing to effect it. The party’s disastrous show in the recent Assembly elections seems to have shaken the Congress leadership out of slumber and complacency. Rahul promised to transform the party — and,by extension,the government — in “ways you can’t imagine” following the defeat.

During his interactions with batches of industrialists,the immense damage caused by environmental activists in the Union Cabinet seems to have been underlined,and appears to have had a bearing on the PM’s decision to drop Natarajan.

Congress sources said a small reshuffle is likely in the near future to re-allocate portfolios that have fallen vacant due to Natarajan’s resignation and the demise of Union Labour Minister Sis Ram Ola. While Oscar Fernandes holds additional charge of Ola’s portfolio,given Rahul’s thrust on “reforms in labour laws” on Saturday,it is likely the ministry may be assigned to a reforms-friendly minister.

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