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Amul's boardroom battle has a political twist

Last updated on: November 01, 2013 16:10 IST

Amul's boardroom battle has a political twist

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Kalpesh Damor

Boardroom battles are nothing new for Amul. They even once involved the revered founder of the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), Verghese Kurien. 

Today, the man in the muddle is Vipul Chaudhary. When Chaudhary was elected the chairman of the milk body which owns the Amul brand in August 2012, he may not have imagined that just over a year hence, he would be in the same predicament as the man he tried to oust, Parthi Bhatol, who, like Chaudhary, had faced a no-trust vote in the Amul board in 2010. 

The majority of the GCMMF board members  favour a no-trust vote against Chaudhary. Bhatol, now his bitter critic, too got a chance to hit back and castigated him in public for bypassing the board on decisions at Mehsana District Cooperative Milk Producers Union, the largest member of GCMMF. 

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Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

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He has also been accused by board members of financial irregularities at Mehsana as well as for his autocratic style of functioning. But Chaudhary has managed to obtain a stay from the Gujarat High Court on any voting until a hearing on November 11.

Chaudhary has been a  participant in many boardroom dramas and ousters, including the one that dethroned Kurien, fondly known as the Milkman of India. His woes started almost immediately after he took over from Bhatol. 

There was dissent against him, but he was able to leverage his proximity to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to keep his detractors at bay - until now, when he is perceived to be cosying up to the Congress. 

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Image: Vipul Chaudhary
Photographs: Courtesy, Amul

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It was in 2007 that Chaudhary first encountered a major setback. He was suspended from the Mehsana Union for alleged high-handedness in recruitment for a plant belonging to the Dudhsagar Dairy in Haryana. 

It was alleged that he was trying to break free of GCMMF by attempting to get the new plant registered under the Multi-State Co-Operative Federation Act. Chaudhary had then claimed that his suspension was a fallout of his association with the Congress party. He had maintained that he was sacked because Modi’s government was trying to gain control of the state’s co-operative movement.

Chaudhary’s dalliance with politics is not accidental. A mechanical engineer by profession, he has been actively involved in politics since his college days. He was involved in Shankersinh Vaghela’s coup against his own BJP government in 1997. 

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Photographs: Courtesy, Amul

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After Vaghela broke away to form the Rashtriya Janata Party, and then assumed power with the help of the Congress, Chaudhary became home minister for the duration of the 22-month government. Later in 2008, he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, and soon after, was re-elected chairman of Dudhsagar Dairy.

Chaudhary’s present predicament may be due to his renewed closeness to the Congress. 

A few days before the boardroom battle erupted at GCMMF, Vaghela had arranged a meeting for him with Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi. 

Many say he is keen to become the next chief of the National Dairy Development Board, when the term of incumbent chairperson Amrita Patel ends in November, and the meeting with Rahul was in that regard. 

If that is the case, perhaps in Chaudhary's calculations, a bigger national-level role trumps being chairman of GCMMF.


Image: Rahul Gandhi.
Photographs: Reuters

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