London's Tory Mayor Boris Johnson on Tuesday dragged Mahatma Gandhi's name in his party's row with the critics of relentless urbanisation of Britain, arguing that Gandhi was “wrong” to say that India's future lay in its villages.

“As anyone who has been to India can testify, Gandhi was wrong,” Mr. Johnson said, speaking at the Tory party's annual conference in Manchester amid growing public opposition to the government's proposed new planning policy which campaigners see as a threat to environment.

In remarks that, according to critics, didn't quite “fit” the context, Mr. Johnson whose wife Marina is half-Indian, said that in 1948 Mahatma Gandhi “prophesied” that the future of India lay in its 700,00 villages.

The “unromantic” reality, however, was that the future of “the world lies in cities,” though Gandhi was right in the deeper sense that people “yearn for the memory of the village…the Eden from which we were all expelled''.

To fulfil this “yearning,” Mr. Johnson said, his administration was seeking to put the “village back into the city” by planting trees and protecting back gardens even as it was building new homes.

“By next year this mayoralty will have planted 50,000 trees including street trees,” he added.

Earlier, he said: “There is one overarching philosophy behind everything we do in City Hall that can be traced to a saying of Mahatma Gandhi, who prophesied in 1948 that the future of India lay in its 700,000 villages. As anyone who has been to India can testify, Gandhi was wrong. It is unromantic but true that the future of the world lies in cities but he was right in this deeper sense that people yearn for the memory of the village. That Eden from which we were all expelled and so everything we do is about putting the village back into the city.”

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