The Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) of Unjha in Mehsana district is set for a change of leadership after current chairman Gaurang Patel’s ‘Vishwas Panel’ on Monday lost to Dinesh Patel’s ‘Vikas Panel’ by as many as 10 seats to the election for 12 positions in the farmers and traders categories.
This marks the end of a 22-year-old continuous reign of the family of former BJP MLA Narayan Patel over the prestigious APMC. Gaurang Patel is Narayan Patel’s son. Unjha APMC, considered the spice hub of Asia, has an annual turnover of over Rs 4,000 crore.
The elections were politically prestigious as Gaurang Patel, who has held the post for eight years following his father Narayan Patel who held the post for 14 years prior, was challenged by Dinesh Patel, a close relative of Gujarat BJP’s general secretary K C Patel, who is also backed by sitting BJP MLA Asha Patel, a political rival of Narayan Patel.
In the run up to the elections, the incumbent group of Gaurang Patel informally named themselves the Vishwas Panel, confident that voters had trust in them. Dinesh Patel and his group informally called themselves the Vikas Panel, expressing the need for development through a change in management.
Voting was held Sunday and results declared Monday. The election was for the seats of 12 board members of the APMC, four under the traders category and eight under the farmers category. The APMC has 15 board members in total, one nominated by the Unjha municipality and two by the Gujarat government, apart from the 12 that elected by members of the APMC.
For the elections, Dinesh Patel’s Vikas Panel fielded eight candidates for the eight farmers’ seats. The Vishwas Panel, led by Gaurang Patel, also fielded eight candidates for the eight seats. A total 313 voters, who are leaders of as many farmers’ cooperatives of Unjha region aligned with the APMC, cast their vote for the eight farmers’ seats. For the four seats in the traders category, Vikas Panel fielded four candidates, while the Vishwas Panel did not field anyone under its banner. Two independent candidates also fought the elections for the traders category.
A total 1,631 traders registered with the Unjha APMC voted to elect representatives in this category. Two independents and two members of the Vikas Panel won. APMC Secretary Vishnu Patel said the elected members will elect a chairman shortly to lead the body.
The political equation of Unjha, where control over the APMC plays an important role, changed during the April bypoll for the Unjha assembly seat, whose results were declared in May.
Asha Patel who as a Congress candidate in the 2017 Assembly elections had defeated Narayan Patel, BJP’s five-time MLA and former minister, later resigned from the Congress and joined the BJP. She was then nominated by the BJP for the Unjha bypoll. This reportedly upset Narayan Patel, who then allegedly worked to defeat Asha Patel. However, she won.
Following this, the elections of the Unjha APMC which were due in April before the Lok Sabha elections but were postponed to June, were held. And the Asha Patel-backed Dinesh Patel and his Vikas Panel won over the incumbent Gaurang Patel’s Vishwas Panel, ending 22 years of control over the APMC by a single family.