The hunt for a man-eating tigress in Uttarakhand has assumed political connotations as the state government grappled to eliminate the big cat that could spark a voter backlash in the state battling growing man-animal conflict.
Assembly elections are due in the state early next year and the Congress government has deployed hundreds of men besides a helicopter and a drone to track the big cat that has already killed two people and mauled three others in an around Ramnagar, around 60 km from capital Dehradun.
Angry residents of Ramnagar, mainly farmers, are pressurising the forest department to kill the big cat in view of the approaching harvest season when the people will be forced to be out on the fields.
People were also said to be angry as elephants used to locate the tigress have damaged standing crops of sugarcane and wheat.
Though man-leopard conflicts are quiet rampant, man-eater tigers are rare in the hill state which has a large number of big cats. Experts and animal rights activists say that a growing human population and decreasing forest cover were pushing the big cats out of their habitats, leading to confrontation with humans.
Satish Nailwal, district president of ruling Congress said man-animal conflict is an issue that is often politicised.
He, however, denied that the government or party wants to reap political benefits by killing tigress. “(The) tigress could kill more (people) if it is not killed. Where is the politics in it?” Nailwal said.
However, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been targeting chief minister Harish Rawat on the issue.
Party spokesperson Devendra Bhasin said the government should work on a uniform policy to mitigate conflict and should “not indulge in cheap publicity tactics”.