‘It is my conviction that the state government should not interfere in the cooperative sector,’ said chief minister Narendra Modi at the inaugural function of Gujarat State Cooperative Bank’s Sardar Patel Sahkar Bhavan in Ahmedabad last Wednesday. However, people associated with cooperative sector believe that the chief minister’s words are in utter contrast to the deeds of his government.
The ongoing power politics in the cooperative sector is a strong evidence of the Modi-led state government trying to gain control over it. The sector, which no doubt brings with it a lot of influence, is seen and treated as a huge vote bank, and no stone is being left unturned for a hold on the sector.
On December 4, the board of Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) passed a no-confidence motion against chairman Vipul Chaudhary. Even though Chaudhary is currently affiliated with the BJP, the saffron party-dominated board voted against him. It is believed that the reason behind this is Chaudhary’s brief meeting with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi in Ahmedabad some two months ago.
Yet another example of the state government’s interference in the cooperative sector is election to the Gujarat State Cooperative Bank.
On February 13, 2009, Amit Shah’s protégé Ajay Patel was elected to the helm of Gujarat State Cooperative Bank. For the first time, a BJP-supported candidate captured the top position in GSC Bank despite the Congress having 11 directors on a board of 21 members. Then Congress leader and currently vice-president of state planning commission Narhari Amin had accused the state government of pressurising their members to vote in favour of BJP-supported candidates.
“The battle in Amul is political and it has taken a toll on the brand,” said a former senior official of GCMMF. He said that instead of looking at the cooperative from purely business point of view for betterment of farmers, it is being used as a political platform by politicians and parties.
Not only people affiliated with BJP but many Congressmen also do not dare to criticise the Modi government openly. “The interference has increased in past few years. When I was chairman of GCCMF, there was no interference of the Madhavsinh Solanki government in spite of different political beliefs,” said a former chairman of GCCMF who is now associated with the Congress.
Virji Thummar, former MP from Amreli, accused the state government of misusing powers to disqualify powerful people who are affiliated with the Congress. “The cooperative department works only on instructions of the BJP. They open up old cases of irregularities against Congress people and disqualify them for smallest mistakes so that they cannot contest elections of bigger bodies,” alleged Thummar.
Citing an example, he pointed out how he was not allowed to contest elections of Gujarat State Cooperative Marketing Federation Ltd (Gujcomasol) on the accusation of having invested the cooperative society’s deposits in IFFCO without getting approval of the department. Thummar alleged that BJP has captured the cooperative sector by using the cooperative department of the state government.