The row over the city’s development plan (DP) — opposed by several citizens and activists for some of its provisions — has taken on a political hue.
The Shiv Sena, seeking to distance itself from the document, has indicated it is against controversial provisions the citizens may oppose.
Sources said, during a meeting on Thursday, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said his party will not tolerate the blueprint’s plans to open up areas that are environmentally sensitive, such as salt pans or the Aarey Milk Colony. According to the sources, Thackeray said the Sena will not hesitate to virulently oppose if the BMC went ahead using ecologically-sensitive areas, or dish out more floor space index (FSI) for builders without ensuring adequate infrastructure.
The Sena’s move signals an effort to distance itself from the plan by the BMC administration, because its top brass suspects ally BJP would distance itself if it faces flak from people. According to sources, the Sena felt the BJP may shift blame and embarrass it ahead of the 2017 polls.
Many in the Sena also fear the DP’s provisions — seen as benefitting the builders —will hurt the party’s image.
“The BJP, like it did with the roads and desilting scam, will be quick to distance itself from controversy and blame us. We feel the need to be careful about our stance on the issue,” a Sena leader said.
The Sena’s fears also arise from what happened last year, when chief minister Devendra Fadnavis scrapped the DP.
The Sena had opposed the bluprint draft, but the BJP, after an initial silence, supported it only to buckle under public pressure and scrap it.
The leader said the BJP won’t hesitate to capitalise on such controversies ahead of next year’s polls. “Right now, the BJP is testing waters and not responding to the DP. Once they realise public opinion is against it, they will protest it and get it scrapped and claim credit for it, and all the while, covertly blaming us.”
The Sena is stepping up the aggression in the run-up to May 27, when civic chief Ajoy Mehta is slated to present the draft proposed land use plan before the civic general body.
“I have already articulated my reservations about this DP to the commissioner in writing. Uddhavji will now convey to us the party’s stand on the issue and we will make a strong statement on it on May 27, when it is placed in the general body before us,” said Yashodhar Phanse, Sena leader and standing committee chairman in the BMC.
The Sena said its top brass is in the process of articulating its position . “We are very clear we will not let any more environmentally significant areas be destroyed. We will force the BMC to drop reservations from Aarey. We also don’t want the BMC to propose the opening up of salt pan lands and all the NDZs for development,” said another Sena leader.