Just two weeks away from the upcoming Assembly elections in Maharashtra, the latest episode of Aarey tree cutting seems to have changed the political narrative in the state. Both alliance partners – Shiv Sena and BJP seem clearly opposite on the issue. As the protests have taken a different shape after metro authorities with the help of local police turned violent and lathi-charged activists who are protesting against the government’s move to cut down over 2.500 trees in Aarey colony of Mumbai to make way for Metro car shed. The government has also refused to declare the trees cover as forest land.
Several leaders including Shive Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi has been detained by Mumbai Police during the protests. Priyanka has accused police of forcibly detaining her when she was on her way to the Aarey area where all the entry points were blocked by the authorities.
Not only Priyanka, but Shiv Sena leader, and Worli constituency candidate Aaditya Thackeray also condemned the police action on protesters. He urged Metro authorities to pay heed to the demands of the citizens against the axing of trees in Aarey. In a series of tweets, the Shive Sena politician criticized the Mumbai police for lathicharging protesters and termed the incident ”shameful” and ”inhuman”.
Another leader and Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut also slammed Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for approving the metro shed construction. The Shiv Sena leader also posted a cartoon of CM Fadnavis on social media in which the Maharashtra CM is seen blindfolding justice with a strip of cloth that reads – Aarey not a forest.
Bollywood actors Farhan Akhtar, Siddharth Malhotra, Dia Mirza, Varun Dhawan, and others have extended their support to the protesters who have launched a campaign to save trees in Aarey.
The recent slugfest between the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra unit of the BJP has put a question mark on the recently formed alliance between the two political parties. Speculation is rife the Aarey episode would help the Sena achieve bigger electoral gains in Maharashtra while the BJP would face the wrath of the voters. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is likely to address a presser later today to expose the government on Aarey tree cutting.