Aaditya Thackeray, chief of Shiv Sena youth wing Yuva Sena, has repeated his opposition to the cutting of trees in Mumbai's Aarey colony for the purpose of constructing a Metro car park, declaring he is against the structure being built at the cost of the city's green cover. The fate of nearly 3,000 trees in one of Mumbai's greenest neighbourhoods is now an all-out fight between BJP leader and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and the Sena's Mr Thackeray, who has highlighted the potential destruction of floodplains and the loss to local wildlife.
"It is my way or highway attitude. If they can't build a Metro car shed at (some) other place, it is like threatening Mumbai. So why should such officers, or consultants, stay in their position?" Mr Thackeray asked, this time targeting Ashwini Bhide, the IAS officer in charge of construction.
"On technical grounds the best suited site is Aarey. There is no other place. It has to be built at Aarey, else Mumbai Metro can't be constructed," Ms Bhide, Managing Director, Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited, told NDTV.
The Shiv Sena has steadfastly opposed the proposed construction in Aarey colony and voted against the plan that was nevertheless passed by the Tree Authority of the Brihanmumbai Corporation (BMC).
"We all want the Metro but this bullying is not accepted. We will not accept the decision which is forced upon us. (I) don't remember anyone working in this manner. We have accepted all of their decisions, but we will not accept if anyone touches Aarey," Mr Thackeray asserted.
He had earlier demanded Ms Bhide's transfer over the matter, claiming she was "disrespecting elected representatives and citizens of Mumbai".
Chief Minister Fadnavis and the BJP have publicly supported the felling of trees.
"This is a misconception... that trees are being cut and the forest is being cut. The Supreme Court has given a ruling that what the government is doing is right," Mr Fadnavis, who had earlier claimed 3,000 trees would planted and 500 trees be re-planted.
Mr Fadnavis heads the Urban Development Department under which the MMRCL is constituted.
In addition to the car park for Metro Line 3, the building of a Metro Bhavan is also underway in Aarey colony, which adjoins the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. There are also reports of Metro authorities asking for a further 30,000 square feet of land in Aarey for Mumbai's Metro Line 6.
With Assembly elections expected to be held next month, the Aarey dispute may drive a wedge between the BJP and its ally the Shiv Sena.
With input from PTI