MUMBAI ~ The image of a crisp kurta-pyjama clad politician taking a few token hacks at the soil with a pick axe and planting a sapling may soon be a thing of the past. The once important image-building tool for leaders—especially the Congress, whose activists embarked on highly-publicised tree plantations during Independence Day, Republic Day and the birthdays of Indira, Rajiv, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi—is no longer on their priority list. Blame it on lack of rain. A drought like situation has engulfed many parts of the country. Planting trees in such times annoys residents of that area as the trees deplete their already meagre reserves of water.
Keeping in mind the 2014 Assembly and Lok Sabha polls, politicians have cautioned supporters against organising tree plantation drives. A Congress minister in the Maharashtra cabinet says, “When there is no water, people do not take kindly to tree plantations. There will be elections and none of us wants to be caught on the wrong foot. Planting more trees will not get us more rain, history is proving it.”
There is another angle to the sudden reluctance of ministers to plant trees. Many politicians are silent or active partners in the construction activity of prominent builders. They don’t want to do anything that will shrink real estate areas.
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, who during his Shiv Sena days had pledged to plant 76 lakh trees across the state (after his uncle Bal Thackeray turned 76), abandoned the idea after planting less than 1,000 saplings. That was in 2003. Today, he avoids tree plantation drives.
Spiritual guru Bhayyu Maharaj, who has been advising politicians across the country to plant trees according to the Navagraha pattern, is not happy with their opposition. In the Navagraha pattern, trees are planted according to their compatibility with seasons and the nine planets. “More trees must be planted. It is only such greenery which can bring good rain,” he says. This is that rare occasion when his advice is not being heeded.▪