While candidates from many parties refrained from direct protest with the model code of conduct in place, Congress candidate Sunil Kumre questioned Shiv Sena MLA from Jogeshwari East Ravindra Waikar’s lack of interest in the movement. “Every Sunday a ‘Save Aarey’ protest would be held. The MLA of the area has never come,” Kumre alleged.
He added that the government showed unprecedented hurry following the High Court judgment. “No time was given to activists to approach the Supreme Court,” he added.
By Saturday afternoon, former Congress president Sanjay Nirupam too reached Goregaon check-naka off the Western Express Highway to protest along with activists. He blamed the Sena for exhibiting “hypocritical attitude” towards the Aarey issue. “Shiv Sena is only doing lip service. They should take a stand but they aren’t. Sena must break coalition with BJP if they support the Aarey cause,” Nirupam said.
Former mayor Shubha Raul, who was detained by police on Saturday morning, said local Sena cadre has been supporting the Aarey cause. “We were here till late night. We were so close to the site we could hear the machines cutting through trees. But there was heavy police presence,” she said.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) took to the streets with several party supporters parking themselves on road since Friday night to protest MMRCL’s move to fell trees. AAP’s candidate from Jogeshwari East, Vitthal Lad, said the “rashness with which police acted has affected tribals living in Aarey hamlets worst”. “This situation is like Jammu and Kashmir. Government must think what they are doing to their own people,” Lad said.
“Even more despicable is the role of the Shiv Sena, whose leaders tweet and take press conferences on one hand and on the other it is the Sena-led BMC that has executed the massacre. Sadly, the opposition is also dead in Maharashtra,” said AAP’s national spokesperson Preeti Sharma Menon.
NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik also questioned the BJP-Sena alliance over Aarey issue. “Now that trees are being felled, where are those environment lovers who banned plastic?” he said in a statement.