A DAY after BJP MLA from Dhari, Nalin Kotadiya, exhorted farmers to kill lions if they affected their livelihood, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel on Saturday said she was pained and wondered “if he has any compassion for wildlife.” But the MLA hit back saying the CM was more concerned about lions than nine Patidar youths who were killed during quota violence in August.
Addressing a farmers’ rally in Talal town of Gir-Somnath district Friday, Kotadiya had said, “Lions are national heritage and to conserve them is the duty of everybody. But if we are forced to conserve lions at the cost of our livelihood, we shall not hesitate to kill lions themselves. If this area is suitable for lions, then shift all of us to Gandhinagar.”
Kotadiya had taken out the rally to protest proposed eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of Gir forest, the only natural habitat of Asiatic lions in the world. Gir forest is spread across Junagadh, Gir-Somnath and Amreli districts in Saurashtra region and the MLA has been protesting against the proposed green zone around the protected forest since September 25. Gujarat government has sent draft ESZ of Gir forest to Central government and it is yet to be notified formally. The MLA has been demanding that ESZ of Gir be kept only a few kilometre from the boundary of the forest.
Reacting to the MLA’s threat, CM said she was dismayed at what the MLA had said. “I am extremely pained, my friends, that an MLA has given a statement saying lions should be killed if eco-sensitive zone is being created only for saving lions. I wonder if the MLA has any compassion for wildlife,” Patel said while addressing a public function in Bhavnagar on Saturday.
However, Kotadiya shot back saying the CM was attaching more importance to the lives of lions than human beings. “Nine Patidar youths were killed (during violence in the state in August) and she has not spoken a word on it. But she feels pain at mere talk of killing lions,” the MLA told The Sunday Express. He also denied the charge of not having compassion for wildlife.
“People of Saurashtra have compassion for wild animals and therefore lions are there. Go check the jungles in tribal belt of the state. You will not find even a squirrel there. Not even in the constituency of the forest minister,” said Kotadiya.
Incidentally, Kotadiya has openly extended his support to Patidars who are agitating for OBC status and reservation benefits. But after Kotadiya started espousing the case of Patidar reservation stir and protesting against the government over ESZ of the Gir forest, senior Gujarat BJP leader Mansukh Mandavia had disowned him a few weeks ago, saying he was not a BJP MLA. However, Kotadiya says that till date he has not received even a notice from the saffron party.