The direct tussle between Union Minister Maneka Gandhi and Maharashtra Environment Minister Sudhir Mugantiwar further escalated on Tuesday, with the former asking Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to remove his state minister over the killing of tigress Avni.
The BJP leader, however, hit back seeking resignation of the Union minister on "moral grounds" over the death of children due to malnutrition.
"I request you to fix responsibility for the illegal killing of the tigress and consider removing Mugantiwar from the responsibility of the Ministry of Environment and Forest in the state government," Maneka asked Fadnavis in a letter which was released to the media.
"If the environment and forest minister resorts to killing animals instead of protecting them, he is definitely failing in his duty. This is something like the WCD minister working for child traffickers," the Union Women and Child Development minister wrote in her letter.
Gandhi also said she had been discussing with Mugantiwar on the issue of alleged man-eater tigress Avni for the past two months and requesting the minister to have the tigress tranquillised and quarantined.
Gandhi said the tigress could have been saved, had the minister in charge of the Forest and Environment Department been a "little patient, sensitive and persistent".
On Friday, sharp-shooter Asgar Ali shot dead Tigress Avni, who is believed to be responsible for the deaths of 13 people in the past two years, in Maharashtra's Yavatmal forests as part of a government-sponsored operation. The big cat is survived by two cubs who are ten-months old.
Seeking Gandhi’s resignation, Mugantiwar said: "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."
"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.
Earlier in the day, 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 Monday said that preliminary reports showed that the forest department team shot the tigress in "self-defence" while trying to tranquilise it.
On Sunday, Gandhi in a series of tweets lashed out at the Maharashtra government for giving the orders to kill the tigress despite opposition from several stake-holders.
"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.
Mungantiwar, who also holds the Finance portfolio, had said that Gandhi "lacked information" on the issue, and was free to order any high-level probe.
(With agency inputs)