Rhino poaching row exposes rivalry in Gogoi ministry

The sudden increase in the number of rhino deaths both due to poaching and floods has not only raked up a major issue in Assam with NGOs, opposition parties and even student bodies coming down heavily on the government, but has also brought to open an alleged rivalry between two important ministers in the Tarun Gogoi government.

Assam Forest and Environment Minister Rockybul Hussain in fact has shot off a letter to Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma who is also minister for Assam Accord implementation asking him to detect and evict Bangladeshi immigrants, if any, from inside Kaziranga National Park as alleged by a TV news channel owned by the latter's wife.

"One TV news channel has been running a campaign against me over rhino poaching and alleged encroachment by Bangladeshi immigrants in Kaziranga. He (Sarma) being the minister for Assam Accord implementation too, I have requested him to take urgent steps to evict those people from Kaziranga as alleged by a particular TV news channel," Hussain has said.

Hussain, who wrote the letter to Sarma on Saturday also sent copies to PM Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, CM Tarun Gogoi and others.

The said TV news channel is owned by Sarma's wife and it had only recently done a story by entering Kaziranga National Park at night reportedly without obtaining permission from the authorities.

Gogoi, when asked about the letter, said he was not bothered or interested in whatever letter one minister has written to another. "What is more important is the hullabaloo over rhino deaths. I smell politics behind this," Gogoi said.

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