Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar on Wednesday defended the cutting of trees for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election rally at a college in Pune, PTI reported. Opposition parties had alleged that some trees at Sir Parshuram College in Pune were cut on Monday for Modi’s Assembly election rally on Thursday.

Javadekar said that though trees were cut, more trees were planted at the venue. He added that trees had been cut for holding rallies of former prime ministers and other political leaders.

“Every time we cut trees, we plant more,” Javadekar told reporters in Mumbai. “It is a rule of the forest department.”

“And why is there so much fuss about cutting of trees for Modi’s rally?” Javadekar added. “Trees have been cut for rallies of others too, and for rallies of previous prime ministers. I wonder why there was no such awareness previously.”

Last month, there had been a public outcry against the plan of the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation to cut over 2,700 trees in the Aarey Milk Colony in Mumbai, to build a car shed for the metro. Despite protests, the Bombay High Court refused to stop the cutting. The Supreme Court earlier this month ordered a stay on tree felling till October 21.

Javadekar also said on Wednesday that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Maharashtra inherited the problem of farmer suicides from the erstwhile Congress-Nationalist Congress Party dispensation. “Farmers’ suicides are happening only in five districts because there were no irrigation facilities,” the minister claimed. Javadekar also alleged that the PMC Bank crisis is “a sin of the Nationalist Congress Party”.

Javadekar welcomed the government’s promise in its manifesto to confer the Bharat Ratna on Hindutva icon Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, and on Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and Savitri Phule. The BJP had on Tuesday released a 44-page manifesto for the elections.

The Maharashtra Assembly elections will be held on October 21, and the results for all 288 seats declared on October 24.

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