If there was a milestone that the BJP was eyeing in Gujarat after winning the state Assembly polls with a record margin of 156 seats in December last year, it was to be at the helm of the coveted milk cooperative, Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union Limited, popularly called Amul Dairy — the first dairy cooperative of India, which had eluded the party’s grasp since it was founded in 1946.
That made Amul the only one among Gujarat’s 18 dairy cooperatives that had some Congress members, the rest being 100 percent BJP.
On Tuesday, finally, BJP leader Vipul Patel and Congress turncoat Kanti Parmar Sodha were elected as Chairman and Vice-Chairman, respectively, of the cooperative.
Earlier, the dairy’s chairman since 2002 and former MLA, Ramsinh Parmar, had defected from the Congress to the BJP in 2017, ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls that year. However, the districts of Anand and Kheda being Congress strongholds, the party still had an upper hand in the Amul board.
On February 13, the BJP held a meeting at the Anand circuit house, where a “mandate” was reportedly given to elect Vipul Patel as Chairman and Sodha Parmar as the Vice-Chairman.
The party’s choice of the two leaders at the helm is also seen as significant, for Patel is an influential community leader, and is the first Patel to be the Amul Chairman after its founder Tribhuvandas Patel. Parmar, on the other hand, represents the majority OBC community, which also includes many milk farmers.
Founder Tribhuvandas Patel had voluntarily retired from the post of Chairman of Amul in 1970, after which, he was succeeded by several Congress leaders, until Ramsinh Parmar took over in early 2000. In fact, Ramsinh, 78, was said to have been in the race for the post even after the BJP’s surprise takedown of the Congress last week. Local leaders said the BJP had been looking for an opportunity to take over Amul since the controversial 2020 elections, when Ramsinh aligned with the Congress panel led by Rajendrasinh Parmar to secure his clout and the post of Chairman — getting elected uncontested.
Vipul Patel, 52, who is currently the President of the BJP unit in Kheda district, is a popular leader of cooperatives, and has his hands full with multiple posts in Anand and Kheda districts.
The Congress is currently left with two out of the nine seats it won in the 2020 polls — Rajendrasinh Parmar and Sanjay Patel. Rajendrasinh also lost the Congress’s so-far-undefeated bastion of Borsad in the recently concluded Assembly polls — a seat previously held by deceased former Chief Minister Madhavsinh Solanki.
With Amul now in the grip of the BJP, the influence of the Congress has further diminished in its bastion of the Anand and Kheda districts — which has 7 lakh milk producers in village cooperatives. Leaders in the Congress, which has lost hold over nearly 15 milk cooperative unions in the recent past, admit it will be an uphill task to recover from the losses.
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