Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said on Monday that the plan to build a rake shed for Metro Line 3 in Aarey, which has become controversial on account of the trees that need to be cut, might meet the same fate as Nanar Oil Refinery in the Konkan region.
“There was similar issue with the Nanar refinery also,” said Uddhav, while responding to a query on the Sena’s stand on the tree cutting and car depot in Aarey for the Metro 3 project. The Sena chief was referring to the Nanar Oil Refinery project in Sindhudurg district which was to come up with massive Saudi-UAE investment.
The Sena had objected to the project on grounds that it would have an adverse environmental impact on the entire Konkan region, forcing the state government to shelve the project as a condition of the Sena-BJP alliance for the 2109 Lok Sabha elections.
The Sena chief’s remarks comes after Opposition parties and environmental activists criticised him for double standards on the issue. Recently, Uddhav had attended the inauguration of the Metro Bhavan project along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But last week, Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray had demanded a probe against the consultants for the Metro Line 3 (Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ) and funds spent on the consultants and insinuated a scam. He had also sought the transfer of Ashwini Bhide, Managing Director of Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL), stating that the chief minister should appoint “capable officers who will listen to the voices of Mumbaikars”.
On Monday, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also accused the Shiv Sena of double-speak on the Aarey issue. “Aaditya Thackeray makes bold statements about Mumbai and about saving Aarey. But, nothing is done by him or his party to protect Aarey other than his fancy tweets,” said Preeti Sharma Menon, national spokesperson of AAP, and asked how Shiv Sena-ruled BMC had given approval to cut 2,646 trees in Aarey for the Metro shed.
Menon further said that the environment department comes under Shiv Sena that can stop MMRCL but it is silent on this issue.
Uddhav’s remarks came a day after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had said that he would discuss the issue with Aaditya, who has spoken out against cutting trees in Aarey and staked his reputation as a woke, new age Sena leader on this contentious matter roiling Mumbai ahead of the Assembly elections due in October.
However, Nanar and Aarey are two different issues, and the political situation has also changed. Sena had objected to the Nanar project due to the opposition from the locals in Konkan region, a Sena bastion. Also, then, it was the BJP that needed Sena in an alliance for the Lok Sabha election, enabling Sena to call the shots and have the project shelved. It helped that land had not been acquired and no work had begun.
At Aarey, much work on the Metro project has already taken place. Also this time, it is the Sena that needs the BJP, said observers.