Ahmedabad: There was a time when the cooperative sector was producing political leaders, who led the state through mainstream politics. With time things have reversed, now political leaders have hijacked the cooperative sector in Gujarat.
Political parties have started controlling cooperative societies’ elections. This will not only kill the cooperative leadership but the cooperative sector in the long run, fear leaders from the cooperative sector.
Citing the example of the recent Rajkot Agriculture Produce Market Committee elections, cooperative leader Hardevsinh Jadeja said BJP leader Parshottam Savaliya had the support of 11 members of the board, whereas another BJP leader Jayesh Boghra was supported by just two members. Yet, Boghra is the chairman of the Rajkot APMC and not Savaliya, because the party mandate was for Boghra. This is the new norm of the cooperative sector.
Jadeja said earlier local leaders were forming a group or panel and contesting cooperative societies elections, where even the district political leadership had little say, forget the state leadership. Those cooperative leaders had direct contact and were in touch with farmers, so the farmers were well aware whom to vote for. Now the political party in power has started imposing leaders on the farmers.
During the Congress regime, the party never interfered in the cooperative societies elections, directly or indirectly, be it the milk union, cooperative banks, sugar cooperatives or APMCs. But since the last one year, the BJP state leadership has started finalizing panels. By doing so they have started taking control of cooperative societies, which will kill the cooperative movement’s leadership, alleged Jadeja.
There is no harm if state leaders decide, because they do take the local leaders into confidence while finalizing the panel for a cooperative society election, defended Jayesh Radadiya, Chairman of the Rajkot District Cooperative Bank and a BJP leader.
Citing his own experience, Radadiya said, “I was given charge of Rajkot district, because the party is aware that on the ground I will know the local leaders, the grassroot connects and strengths. I prepare a panel, which is approved by the state leadership and announced, meaning local leaders do have a say in the selection.”
According to the state cooperative registrars and the state cooperative union records there are 76,000 cooperative societies in Gujarat comprising fisheries, small financial credit societies, agri finance etc. This includes 20 sugar cooperatives, one state cooperative bank, 18 district cooperative banks, 240 nagrik cooperative banks and 18 district cooperative milk producers union.
The total membership of the cooperative sector is in the millions, it makes a huge vote bank which no party would like to ignore.
For this vote bank, the ruling party is abusing power, luring directors or leaders and if required indulging in arm twisting, so that it can control the sector. Cooperative leaders or directors have no choice but to join the ruling party and this practice is going to kill the cooperative sector in the long term, says Dhiubhai Chavda, a former chairman of the Kaira District Cooperative Bank Ltd.
Take the example of Sabarkantha District Milk Producer’s Union Ltd’s (Sabar Dairy) vice chairman Jayanti Patel, who after his long association with the Congress, quit the party and joined the BJP in March 2022, said a cooperative leader wishing anonymity.
The leader also cited the appointment of Keshubhai Nakrani as chairman of the Bhavnagar District Cooperative Bank. According to him, Nakrani has no experience of banking or the cooperative sector, but he was appointed just because he is a BJP leader and a former MLA.
The Congress can never regain control of these cooperative societies, because the present leadership has given up fighting the ruling party. On the other hand, the BJP is active to make the cooperative sector ‘Congress Mukt’, says Kanjibha Bhalala, a cooperative leader from Surat.