Opposition parties, including the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), along with other outfits and activists have alleged that a number of trees were felled on the campus of Sir Parshurambhau (S.P.) College in Pune ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election rally on Thursday.While local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders refuted allegations that the cutting of trees had any connection with the PM’s event, college authorities claimed that only dangerously dangling branches that could cause a mishap during rain or inclement weather were pruned for the safety of the students.While the Congress claimed around 25 subabul trees had been chopped without permission from the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) on Monday night, NCP MP Vandana Chavan demanded a probe into the felling of trees.“As per PMC norms, permission has to be sought from its Tree Authority before cutting trees. This is the second such incident. Earlier, trees were being cut along the route of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s Mahajanadesh Yatra. At that time, the CM had brushed off the allegations that trees had merely been pruned and only their branches were cut,” Pune district Congress secretary and spokesperson Ramesh Iyer said.Mr. Iyer rubbished the claims of the Shikshan Prasarak Mandali, which runs S.P. College, that only branches were cut. “How is it that suddenly you realise trees as old as 25-30 years have to be cut overnight? Obviously, it is to make space for the PM’s event. On one hand, this BJP government makes tall claims on planting saplings, and on the other, it ruthlessly fells trees for its party events. This is sheer doublespeak.”Lawyer Asim Sarode pointed out that unlike the Aarey tree felling, where the government gave the excuse of ‘development’, there was no such pretext to be made in this case. “By its very nature, this action is illegal and is purely for the political purposes of staging a massive rally. The procedure for felling any tree is that an application must first be sent to the PMC’s tree authority. Only after a survey is done by authorities, can the process [of cutting trees] commence.”Hitting out at the “double standards” of the BJP government at the Centre and in the State, Santosh Shinde of the Sambhaji Brigade said it appeared that the PM was bent upon “giving carbon dioxide to Pune city by destroying its sources of oxygen.” “This incident has pulled the mask off the BJP ‘eco-friendly’ claims…it shows that the Fadnavis government’s figures of planting lakhs of saplings are a sham.”The BJP’s Pune unit chief, Madhuri Misal, said the PMC had indeed given its assent to cut trees and that the action had no connection whatsoever with the PM’s event.