In less than 6 months after coming back to power in Maharashtra, the NCP has started the mission to regain control of co-operative sugar societies and co-operative credit societies, which are pillars of its influence in the Western Maharashtra and Marathwada region. NCP backed Neelkantheshwar Panel won 11 of 16 seats in the board of directors election of Baramati based Malegaon Cooperative Sugar mill.
Baramati is the stronghold of Pawar’s and the family has never lost any general or assembly election from the region. However, the party lost the elections of the sugar mill in 2015, when an independent body led Rajan Taware had managed to dethrone the Pawar backed panel.
Since the Maha Vikas Aghadi government came to power, the Pawar’s have thrown their weight to win back the sugar mills and credit co-operative societies.
Sharad Pawar built the political and business empire by influencing the agriculture and related industries through policy manipulation.
The credit cooperative societies, sugar mills, agriculture market produce committee (APMC) were the instruments for Sharad Pawar to build the power base the politics of the state. If any party wants to dismantle the clout of the Pawar family, first the ‘instruments’ need to be broken.
Devendra Fadnavis took a series of steps to dismantle the NCP’s stranglehold over sugar mills, APMCs and credit cooperative societies.
Fadnavis started ‘deregulation’ of agriculture in the state and therefore the clout of the Pawar family weakened. The first thing BJP did was to amend the Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act and appointed ‘independent experts’ in the boards of cooperative sugar factories and APMCs. This broke the backbone of NCP as the leaders of the party dominated the boards for decades and these were important ‘instrument’ of power.
The second target of the BJP was the cooperative banks which have been dominated by members of the Congress and NCP. The Fadnavis government passed the ordinance in January 2016 to ban the directors of the cooperative banks which faced financial irregularities from contesting elections for two terms. This step effectively eliminated many NCP and Congress leaders from the electoral competition.
Another reform in APMCs was that the government allowed the horticulture farmers to sell their produce in free markets. Earlier, the farmers were bound to sell the produce to licensed traders of APMCs who were associated with NCP or Congress party. The traders in Vidarbha and Marathwada region are BJP and RSS supporters but the Western and Northern Maharashtra which are the most fertile areas of the state, the traders are associated with NCP.
Most of the sugar factories in the state are dominated by Congress leaders and have a political link to the APMC market. 70 per cent of 200 sugar factories of the state are dominated and the APMC amendment was expected to weaken the clout of Congress and NCP.
All these reforms implemented by the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance government are now bound to be reversed as Pawar family is the de facto ruler of the state in alliance government. NCP has already started taking over the sugar mills and slowly the reforms in credit co-operative societies and APMCs will also be reversed. The Shiv Sena’s hunger for CM chair is bound to hurt the people of Maharashtra and the only party to benefit from this alliance government is NCP.