In Gujarat, BJP moves to ensure ‘Congress-mukt’ cooperatives

Rutam Vora Ahmedabad | Updated on January 09, 2018 Published on August 29, 2017

Ramsinh Parmar, Chairman, Amul Dairy

Cooperative heavyweight Ramsinh Parmar and another Congress MLA join BJP

After former Congress MLA Ramsinh Parmar switched sides on Sunday to join the ruling BJP, the Opposition party is seen losing its ground in Gujarat’s cooperative sector.

Parmar, who is the chairman of the Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union (also known as Amul Dairy), had quit the Congress in July, ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls on August 8. On Sunday, he and former Congress MLA Mansinh Chauhan were formally inducted into the BJP at a mega event at Dakor in presence of Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and State party chief Jitu Vaghani.

This comes as a major setback for the Congress, which had Parmar as the only representative in the ₹38,000-crore Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF).

“Looking at the current developments, we can say that the cooperative sector in Gujarat is moving towards becoming Congress-mukt (free of the Congress). The entire dairy cooperative is now led by BJP supporters, while in cooperative banking space, about 80 per cent are with the BJP. This means that the BJP is set to gain (in the upcoming elections) with the strength of the cooperatives,” says Ghanshyam Amin, a veteran cooperative leader and former president of the National Cooperative Union of India (NCUI).

Amin, a former Congress leader, had crossed over to the BJP Chief Minister Narendra Modi was named the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. “There was infighting in the Congress. And we felt cooperatives were being misused,” he says.

Gujarat has had a strong cooperative structure in the sectors of sugar, banking, agricultural marketing and milk production and marketing. The BJP already dominates the State’s cooperative banking sector — most District Cooperative Banks have leaders loyal to the BJP. On the other hand, top agriculture marketing cooperative, the Gujarat State Cooperative Marketing Federation (GujComasol), has former Gujarat Agriculture Minister and BJP leader Dileep Sanghani as the Chairman.

Given that the cooperative movement is rural-driven, political parties cannot afford to ignore the crucial vote base. “Unlike urban pockets, rural voters give preference to individuals than party symbols. Therefore, a prominent face becomes crucial for parties,” says Mansinh Patel, Chairman, Gujarat State Federation of Co-operative Sugar Factories Ltd.

Meanwhile, the Congress’ Co-operative Cell Secretary, Mohanbhai Patel said there was a need to identify strong co-operative leaders from the party and contain the exodus. “Congress has been at the forefront of the co-operative structure at the time of veterans like Natwarlal Patel. But now there is an urgent need to address this challenge of losing control over the co-operatives,” Patel said.

Published on August 29, 2017
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