Question: A state that was still picking up its pieces remained without a leader for 48 hours following which we saw the mostly grossly, unpardonable politics playing itself out. Surely for a party like Congress, the oldest party in the country, this could have been avoidable.
Jayanthi Natarajan: Yes it was India' worst terror attack and the country and particularly Mumbaikars are in shock. On the one hand, the then chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh accepted moral responsibilty and stepped down. We are in a coalition and we need to consult and there could be no short-term decision. There was no vacuum. Mr Deshmukh was the chief minister till the next chief minister took his place.
Question: The Congress surely could have handled this situation a little bit better because really the message that came out of all this was that you were looking at caste equations - whether a Maratha or a non-Maratha - and not really caring whether the state actually at this point and time had the right leadership that it needed.
Jayanthi Natarajan: What the Congress did and what the reasons why the legislature party elected Mr Chavan, what the high command thought about it - all these are internal matters of the Congress. All the stories about caste equations that have come out are media speculations and I don't think it necessarily factors into what decisions were taken internally. In all this, the one thread that ran straight through is the party and leadership's total concern for the people of Mumbai and for their security.
Question: The fact that you had two union ministers holding key portfolios - External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Defence Minister A K Antony - actually sitting there in Mumbai and speaking to each legislator there and trying to sort out the division that existed in the two camps in Maharashtra reflects the rage that has been witnessed throughout the country lately. What is your take on that?
Jayanthi Natarajan: Yes of course, the perception is something that is very, very important. The fact that two of our senior-most leaders went is a reflection of the seriousness of the matter and the concern of the leadership in ensuring that things go smoothly. This is a very important time for us and the whole country, when the way ahead has to be determined.
Question: Things haven't really started out on a smooth note as Narayan Rane has come out in open rebellion. Is there action now expected against him in the next couple of days?
Jayanthi Natarajan: Well, no leader is above party discipline and we must all keep in mind that this is a very difficult for Mumbai and for the entire country. Those who speak out against the party howsoever high or at whatever level in the party will have to face the consequences.