When Covid patients came to vote in PPE kits and wheelchairs

Pune | Updated on May 03, 2021

Sugar and milk cooperatives are the lifeline of Maharashtra’s politics, and politicians go to any extent to control these bodies. Even as the spread of Covid-19 continues like wildfire in the rural areas of the State, the election at the milk cooperatives in Kolhapur was fiercely contested, with politicians ensuring that even Covid-19 patients exercised their voting rights wearing PPE kits, sitting in wheelchairs, and lying on stretchers. NCP, BJP and Congress leaders ensured that voters excercised their franchise in the closely fought contest.

Kolhapur District Milk Cooperative, popularly known as Gokul, has over 5 lakh milk producer farmers as members, but voting right is restricted only to one representative of each local milk body and, hence, about 3,639 members are voters.

According to reports, 12 voters were Covid-19 positive. These voters were brought in PPE kits and in wheelchairs, between 4 pm and 5 pm, the time reserved for Covid-19 patients to vote. Eight voters didn’t turn up and overall 99.78 per cent voting was reported. While voting for Gokul was going on Sunday, Kolhapur district reported 1,473 new Covid-19 cases on the same day. Former military man Sarjerao Pandurang Kurane (75) was reported dead because of a lack of oxygen supply in Girgaon. Kolhapur has 10,323 active Covid-19 cases, according to the State government’s data, and has reported 1,803 Covid-19 deaths till date.

Why cooperatives are key?

The Gokul milk cooperative has a turnover of over ₹2,400 crore and all party politicians are keen to control it. A front led by Congress MLA PN Patil and BJP leader Mahadev Mahadik locked horns with Congress Minister Satej Patil and NCP Minister Hasan Mushrif.

For last 25 years, Mahadik has singlehandedly ruled Gokul even as he and his family members jumped from one political party to another. In fact, just a few years ago, Mahadev Mahadik was the Congress MLC, his son Amal a BJP MLA, and nephew Dhananjay an NCP MP.

The co-operative movement in Maharashtra has contributed to the socio-economic and political development of the State. Initially confined to agricultural credit, the cooperative movement today has spread into agro-processing, marketing, housing, dairy, storage, textile, finance, fishery and industries.

There are about 1.98 lakh co-operative societies in the State. More than half of the 11.24 crore population in Maharashtra lives in rural areas, and the cooperative movement is a lifeline for the rural masses.

“One who controls cooperatives controls the politics and money in rural areas. It is not surprising that politicians are keen to control Gokul and Covid-19 patients were made to vote,” said Sanjay Chavan, a farmer.

Published on May 03, 2021

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