Cooperative as an idea does not matter much in the Lok Sabha election. But leaders- no matter how big- play to gallery as they step into the Marathwada region of Maharashtra. Cooperatives decide here whom to accept and whom to reject.
This region of Maharashtra remains ground zero for a very strong cooperative movement. Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar derives his political clout from his control over the cooperative bodies.
Most of the cooperative organizations including cooperative sugar factories rocked by scams, shady transactions and internal dissensions have been on the verge of collapse. But how far the people will value Pawar’s contribution in introducing 97th CAA which elevated the rights to form cooperative in the category of fundamental rights, remains to be seen.
The plight of the cooperatives has leapt to the fore as an important election issue in the lead up to the parliamentary poll. The Marathwada region boasts 12 parliamentary seats and cooperative bodies are supposed to exercise a decisive influence over the outcome of the election.
Commentators say the BJP-Shiv sena alliance is poised to give the Congress -NCP alliance a run for their money.
The western and souther Maharashtra which have major concentration of cooperative bodies include 12 Lok Sabha seats such as Maval, Pune, Baramati, Shirur, Ahmednagar, Shirdi, Solapur, Madha, Sangli, Satara, Kolhapur and Hatkanangale.
The saffron alliance — the Shiv Sena, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) , the Republican Party of India, the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana and the Rashtriya Samaj Party — is promising to expose these irregularities and cleanse the cooperative movement.
Of the 170-plus cooperative sugar factories in the state, 108 are in western and southern Maharashtra. Of the 70 private units, 62 units are in this region. These contribute more than 75 per cent of the sugar production of the state. The region also houses a large number of cooperative banks, agricultural societies, milk dairies, poultries and horticultural units. This apart, the region had emerged as a hub for automobile, automobile component and information technology companies.
The NCP and the Congress have control over most of the agricultural units. But the Shiv Sena-BJP combine boast of having made inroads. The Congress-NCP and the Shiv Sena-BJP are looking to mobilise support from the politically influential Marathas, Other Backward Classes, the Dhangars, Muslims and Dalits.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar was said to be paying special attention to ensure his bastion remains intact. This polls will not see Pawar in the fray as he was elected to the Rajya Sabha in February this year.
In Baramati, his daughter Supriya Sule is pitted against Rashtriya Samaj Party chief Mahadev Jankar. Aam Aadmi Party has fielded former police officer Suresh Khopde.
Maharashtra’s former deputy chief minister and sugar baron Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil will face Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader Sadabhau Khot in Madha. He will also have to contest against his younger brother, Pratapsinh Mohite-Patil, who is contesting as an independent.
During the 2009 polls, of the 12 seats, six were bagged by Congress and NCP while four by Shiv Sena and BJP, two by an independent and the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana. Congress-NCP combine is struggling to put up a unity show while Shiv Sena-BJP alliance has no choice but to take aggressive posture against the former.
According to the state cooperation department and these parties, an investment of over Rs 40,000 crore had gone into the development of the cooperative units since the founding of Maharashtra in 1960.
-With input from Business Standard