Jayanthi Nataraja: Articluate speaker, Gandhi family loyalist

Jayanthi Natarajan, the only woman face from Tamil Nadu in the Congress and a known loyalist of the Nehru-Gandhi family, makes a comeback to the Union Council of Ministers after a gap of nearly 13 years.

Natarajan, 57, has an arduous task ahead since she steps into the shoes of high-profile and activist minister Jairam Ramesh who had given teeth to the environment ministry which he held as Independent charge.

Granddaughter of veteran Congressman and former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Bakthavatsalam, Natarajan, was a practising lawyer in Chennai before she joined politics in the 1980s and has held a number of posts in Congress, including that of the party's national spokesperson for years.

She was noticed by the then Congress President Rajiv Gandhi who made her a Rajya Sabha MP in 1986. She was re-elected to the Upper House in 1992, 1997 and in 2008.

It will be a home coming of sorts for Natarajan, who will be the Environment and Forests Minister in the Manmohan Singh Cabinet, as she is back in the Union Ministry after a brief stint as Minister of State for Civil Aviation under I K Gujral as a member of the Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC).

Natarajan joined the TMC floated by late Congress veteran G K Moopanar in 1996 after differences with then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao and was rewarded with a MoS berth for her loyalty.

After TMC merged with Congress in 2002 following Moopanar's death, Natarajan too joined the party and was made it spokesperson four years back.

An articulate speaker, Natarajan has often won kudos for communicating the party's views with ease and comfort before cameras.

She had always been in the forefront fighting for women's rights and headed a Parliamentary Committee that looked into the Women's Reservation Bill.

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