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Parties milk Anand cooperative heads
Saubhadra Chatterji in Anand |
December 11, 2007 11:34 IST
Every village in this district has one thing in common - a milk society. However, in the election season, all these societies have one more thing in common - political parties trying to milk the society vote banks.
"Every day the local political managers of various parties come to meet me. I have to spend two-three hours meeting them," said Hemelbhai Patel in Chikhodara in Anand district. He is the all-powerful secretary of the local dairy society.
The reason is simple: There are thousands of such societies working for co-operatives like Amul. In each society, there are thousands of members (those who rear cattle at home and sell milk). Political parties, eyeing these huge vote-banks, are leaving no stone unturned to influence the milk leaders.
While the milk leaders are looked upon by the parties as their prospective agents, there are a few who nurture bigger dreams. Instead of using their influence for the benefit of other parties, they prefer to test their own luck.
Thus, in the second phase of Gujarat elections (on 16 December), voters will see at least three candidates who are the chairpersons of one or the other dairy group. The most prominent is Amul Dairy Chairman Ramsinh Parmar. A known face in local political circle, he is the Congress nominee from Thasra.
Vipul Chaudhary, the BJP nominee from Bhiloda in Sabarkantha district, is the dairy chairman in Mehsana. The Baroda dairy chairman, Madhu Shrivastava, is seeking a re-election from Vaghodia in Vadodara.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi [Images] has also fielded a former chairman of Baroda Dairy, Upendrasinh Gohil, from Vadodara rural seat, a constituency which has a significant presence of milk dairies.
The secretaries of the milk societies are elected representatives and are perceived to command considerable influence among the local crowd.
"Before the elections, these milkmen hold informal meetings when they come to the society office in the morning and evening to sell milk. Brain washing by the society-leaders can do a lot of help to us," says a local BJP secretary in Anand.
Chikhodara is in Sarsa assembly constituency where there is a tough fight between the BJP and the NCP (supported by the Congress). Both sides are wooing the local milk society, where daily transactions are worth more than Rs 1 lakh involving almost two thousand people.
Five kilometers away from Chikhodara is Naveli, where another prosperous milk society is in business with over a thousand milkmen as members.
Jayantibhai Patel, a member of the society, says, "They try to get our votes through the society. But we don't follow the diktat of the society. In any case, the milk society is not supposed to work politically."
But political parties don't hesitate to use this vote-bank where 25 lakh families of milk producers are involved. Parmar had earlier written letters to the affiliated societies in 2004 Lok Sabha elections in favour of his party candidate Dinsha Patel. Patel, who is contesting Modi in Maninagar, finally won the parliamentary polls and became a minister in New Delhi.
In Anand, the birthplace of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, there is a predominance of Thakurs, Patels and Brahmins in local caste politics. To over-ride this factor, parties are trying once again to use milk politics.