IN A significant move, Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis led a delegation of sugar barons to meet Home Minister Amit Shah to discuss issues faced by the sector. The move has caused a flutter in the sugar sector, and many are drawing parallels with NCP chief Sharad Pawar, who is known to lead such delegations due to his hold and sway over the sector.
Other than Fadnavis, the delegation had BJP MLA Jaykumar Gore, Dhananjay Mahadik, Harshvardhan Patil, and others. While Gore and Patil joined the BJP from the Congress just before the Assembly elections, Mahadik has joined the BJP from the NCP. Majority of sugar barons in the BJP have joined the party before the elections from either the NCP or the Congress. The Fadanavis-led government had used the lure of financial help to engineer their defection. Most cooperative mills depend on government bank guarantees and other financial help for their survival.
Pawar also led such delegations to the Centre when Fadnavis was chief minister. Since the NCP and the Congress joined hands, Pawar has publicly criticised Fadnavis on more than one occasion over his politics. Former Congress and NCP leaders now in the BJP have expressed an apprehension over the state government withholding favours from sugar mills owned by them. The former chief minister’s move has come at a time when the state government is undertaking a process to give bank guarantees to cooperative mills, which otherwise would face difficulty in raising funds from financial institutions before the next crushing season.
Mahadik told The Indian Express that during the meeting with Shah, they raised issues faced by the sugar sector across the country. Restructuring of loans, which required intervention from Reserve Bank of India, featured high on their agenda. Similarly, millers asked for inclusion of the sugar sector under Atmanirbhar Bharat scheme, which would enable them to access more liquidity.
“We have asked for Rs 10,000-crore soft loan scheme for the sector, which would allow us to pay cane growers and workers on time,” he said.
In the past, state cooperatives and private sugar millers have made similar demands. Recently, a group of ministers allowed increase in minimum selling price (MSP) of sugar from Rs 3,100 per quintal to Rs 3,300. The cabinet is yet to clear the proposal, so it has not come into effect yet.
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