Mumbai: The ongoing feud between Maharashtra Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar and Maneka Gandhi over the killing of tigress Avni escalated on Tuesday, with the State BJP leader seeking the resignation of the Union minister on “moral grounds” over the death of children due to malnutrition.
Ms. Gandhi, the Women and Child Development Minister, had slammed Mr. Mungantiwar over last week’s killing of the “man-eater” tigress Avni in Yavatmal district, which she termed as a “ghastly murder and a straight case of crime”.
“The Union Minister for Women and Child Development has called for my resignation though I had nothing to do with the killing of the man-eater tigress,” Mr. Mungantiwar told PTI here on Tuesday.
“If I am to take the moral responsibility for something I have nothing to do with, our Central leader should set an example for me and resign taking moral responsibility for the death of children in the country due to malnutrition during her tenure,” he added.
“We can tender our resignations together on moral grounds,” he said further.
The tigress, officially known as T1, was believed to be responsible for the death of 13 people in the last two years.
She was killed on November 2 by Asgar Ali, son of famous sharp-shooter Nawab Shafat Ali, at compartment no 149 of Borati forest in the east Maharashtra district as part of an operation.
The big cat is survived by two cubs who are ten-months old.
Earlier in the day, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said there was no need for the forest minister to resign over the issue.
“I will personally speak with the union minister and clarify the whole matter. The government respects her sentiments towards wild life and animals,” he told reporters in Osmanabad.
The Chief Minister had on Monday said that preliminary reports showed that the forest department team shot the tigress in “self-defence” while trying to tranquilise it.
He had also said that procedural lapse, if any, will be probed.
Ms. Gandhi, in a series of tweets on Sunday, lashed out at the Maharashtra government for giving the orders to kill the tigress despite opposition from several stakeholders.
Ms. Gandhi had also slammed Mr. Mungantiwar for hiring private marksmen Shafat Ali Khan and Asgar Ali for carrying out hunting operations in the State, including the killing of the tigress.
“I am deeply saddened by the way tigress Avni has been brutally murdered in Yavatmal. It is nothing but a straight case of crime. Despite several requests from many stakeholders, (Sudhir) Mungantiwar, Minister for Forests, Maharashtra, gave orders for the killing,” she had said in a tweet.
Mr. Mungantiwar, who also holds the finance portfolio, had said that Ms. Gandhi “lacked information” on the issue, and was free to order any high-level probe.
The minister had also claimed that Shafat Ali Khan, who Ms. Gandhi had termed a “criminal”, was tasked with shooting a tiger in her Pilibhit Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh in 2009 (Gandhi’s son Varun Gandhi was representing the constituency in 2009).