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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Maharashtra: Change of guard at Gokul cooperative dairy after over 30 years, panel led by Congress leader wrests control

The cooperative union, which was managed by supporters of BJP leader Mahadev Mahadik and Congress MLA P N Patil, saw the transition of power to supporters of Congress MLA and state minister Satej Patil, NCP MLA and minister Hasan Mushrif and Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Mandlik.

Written by Parthasarathi Biswas | Pune |
May 5, 2021 9:00:05 pm
Congress MLA Satej Patil (Source: Twitter/@satejp)

The District Cooperative Milk Producers Union, which retails its milk and milk products under the brand name of Gokul, has seen a change of guard after more than 30 years. The cooperative union, which was managed by supporters of BJP leader Mahadev Mahadik and Congress MLA P N Patil, saw the transition of power to supporters of Congress MLA and state minister Satej Patil, NCP MLA and minister Hasan Mushrif and Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Mandlik.

With collection of approximately 10-12 lakh litres of milk per day, Gokul is the largest functional cooperative dairy in the state. It is mainly involved in the sale of pouched milk and has a dedicated consumer base in the state, especially in Pune and Mumbai. Located in the cooperative heartland of southern Maharashtra, Gokul is governed by directors elected by village-level cooperative dairy societies.

Like other cooperative institutions, Gokul has been the centre of power tussle between cooperative barons in the area. Those who control the cooperative dairy also get to build a strong network of dedicated voters in the area for future political endevaours. Unlike sugar mills, which have limited areas of influence, Gokul allows access over the whole district.

For the last 30-odd years, Gokul was in control of directors who supported Mahadik and PN Patil. Mahadik used to be a Congress leader, but left the party due to differences with Satej Patil. His nephew Dhananjay Mahadik is also a BJP leader.

The formation of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in the state was used by local Congress and NCP leaders in Kolhapur to wrestle control of Gokul. Issues such as the conversion of Gokul into a multi-state cooperative and losses incurred were highlighted during the cooperative election campaign. Ministers Patil and Mushrif, along with Shiv Sena leaders, went all out to woo voters during the campaign.

Twenty one seats of the cooperative union went to polls on Tuesday, 17 of which were won by the Sahu Shetkari Aghadi, the panel supported by Patil and others. The ruling panel, supported by Mahadik and others, got only four seats.

In view of the rising cases of Covid-19, calls to postpone the elections were made by various parties and the issue had even reached Supreme Court, which allowed the elections to be held. But the decision of the ministers to call for a strict 10-day lockdown in Kolhapur a day after the election has evoked strong reactions from people.

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Shramika Mahadik, one of the cooperative directors and the wife of Dhananjay Mahadik, tweeted against the decision and said this demonstrated the “lust for power” of the Sahu Shetkari Aghadi. Several local residents also criticised the decision on social media.

The administration later said a 10-day ‘janta curfew’ will be imposed instead of a lockdown. However, serpentine queues were seen outside shops on Wednesday as people stocked up groceries and other items, fearing a lockdown. Only home delivery of essentials will be allowed for the next 10 days.

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