Discord between allies the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena grew on Wednesday, with the Shiv Sena targeting Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis over the move to include the Maharashtra Nature Park (MNP) in land earmarked for the redevelopment of the Dharavi slum.
Yuva Sena president and party’s heir apparent Aaditya Thackeray, who visited MNP on Wednesday morning, fired a barb at the CM accusing his “government of attempting to hack another green space in Mumbai”. Aaditya also alleged that the “state wanted to gift the nature park to builders.”
The warring allies had earlier come in each other’s crosshairs over the state’s proposal to shed the green cover at Aarey Milk Colony for building a car shed for the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz metro rail route. This did not appear to have gone down well with the BJP. While the CM chose not to respond to Thackeray’s accusations, BJP legislator Ram Kadam, also a spokesperson for the party, lashed out at the Thackeray scion for making baseless allegations. “There is no plan to modify the land use of the MNP. No construction of any sort is proposed in the MNP while implementing the Dharavi redevelopment project. Aaditya Thackeray is running a smear campaign and misleading citizens of Mumbai,” said Kadam.
But this did not stop the Shiv Sena leader from initiating an online campaign — Devendra Fadnavis: Save Mahim nature park — asking citizens to ensure that “the green space is not usurped and destroyed in the name of development.” At the time of filing this report, over 670 citizens had supported Thackeray’s online petition.
On March 19, The Indian Express highlighted how the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) had proposed the inclusion of the 16.86 hectare nature park, a portion of which is notified as a forest, in the land earmarked for Dharavi redevelopment project. Both SRA and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) — under which the park falls — are headed by the CM. The Shiv Sena was the first to train guns on the CM over the project.
Almost immediately after visiting the park on Wednesday, Thackeray tweeted, “I visited the Mahim nature park this morning with the Mayor of Mumbai. This area was a dumping ground converted later to a nature park. Now the state wants to give it to builders. Such a shame. I only want to know from the CM if he knew about this. If he did why did he not object to such rampant hacking of nature. If he did not, how is the SRA and the MMRDA running without his guidance.”
Aaditya further tweeted, “This nature park is an educational experience for students. It should remain a nature park. If the MMRDA cannot maintain it, it can be handed over to the BMC. This green space belongs to Mumbai, not to the whims and fancies of planners who don’t understand Mumbai.” Likening the proposal to the Aarey car shed controversy, Thackeray wrote, “Hon’ble CM sir, the MMRCL (Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited) is hacking trees in Mumbai, especially Aarey. Now the government wants builders to take over the MNP. Destruction of environment isn’t called development. Why is the government looting Mumbai of its open and green spaces? I request the government to have someone who loves and understands Mumbai to depute for planning. Don’t monetise our city’s green spaces. The attempt to let builders build inside MNP is disgraceful. Must withdraw it immediately.”
Stung by the accusation, the BJP hit out at the Shiv Sena for playing politics and misleading people. BJP leaders also circulated a written statement by SVR Srinivas, CEO and Officer on Special Duty, Dharavi Redevelopment Project, SRA, claiming that the “The MNP was already a part of the Dharavi notified area. But it had earlier been excluded from being a part of the redevelopment project. In the proposed modification, there is no change in land use. It is only proposed to be included in the Dharavi development plan. No construction of any sort is proposed to be permitted in the nature park while implementing the redevelopment project.”