The upcoming elections to the Sumul Dairy may prove to be the first challenge for CR Paatil after he took over as state president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with two groups of Surat unit of the party contesting against each other.
Elections to the Sumul Dairy, which is part of the 17 co-operative dairies under the Amul brand and has an annual turnover of Rs 4,500 crore, may lead to the divide between the party factions reflect in district panchayat and taluka panchayat elections in Surat and Tapi scheduled to be held later this year.
State leaders have been reportedly trying for a truce between the opposing factions, backed by state cabinet ministers and BJP MLAs, in vain.
The elections to the board of 16 directors of Sumul Dairy in different talukas of Surat and Tapi district, including Olpad, Choryasi, Palsana, Kamrej, Bardoli, Mangrol, Mandvi, Mahuva, Valod, Vyara, Songadh, Nizar Uchhal, Kukarmunda, Umarpada and Dolvan, is scheduled to be held on August 7 and the results will be announced on August 9.
The elected board of directors will later select the chairman of Sumul Dairy. Elections will be held on 14 seats with 31 candidates in fray, after two rival candidates withdrew their nominations. State cabinet minister Ganpat Vasava’s nephew Ritesh Vasava is contesting from Umarpada where his opponent candidate withdrew his form on Tuesday. The second seat where the opponent has withdrawn form is Palasana where Bharatsinh Solanki — immediate past president of BJP of Palsana taluka and active member of the party — is contesting.
Both Ritesh and Bharatsinh are contesting on Mansinh Patel’s panel, one of the factions, while the other group is led by Raju Pathak. Mansinh Patel, was former BJP MP from Mandvi seat in Surat and former chairman of Gujarat state Sugar Co-operative factories, while Raju Pathak is senior BJP leader and was Bharuch district incharge of BJP. He was also the and chairman of Kosamba APMC. Mansinh Patel is contesting from Mahuva seat, while Raju Pathak is fighting the elections from Mangrol seat.
Talking to The Indian Express, Mansinh Patel said, “We have complained about the irregularities, including the appointment of staffers, during the tenure of present chairman of Sumul Dairy, Raju Pathak.”
Raju Pathak said, “By winning this election, I will come clear of the allegations made by rival group. I have told them to come on table and show my irregularities but they only want to make an issue of it.”
Mansinh Patel is backed by state cabinet ministers Ganpat Vasava and Ishwar Parmar, and Surat district BJP president Dilipsinh Rathod, while Raju Pathak is supported by state cabinet minister Ishwar Patel, BJP MLA from Olpad seat Mukesh Patel and Surat district BJP general secretary Sandeep Desai, who is also contesting election from Choryasi.
Former president of Khedut Samaj Gujarat (KSG) South Gujarat unit, Jayesh Patel (Delad), who recently joined the BJP, was also one of the directors of Sumul Dairy. He is also contesting the elections from Olpad seat. Jayesh Patel is backed by Mansinh Patel group, while his opponent candidate Brijesh Patel of rival Pathak group, is Olpad taluka BJP president. Under pressure from top BJP leaders, Brijesh announced that he would support Jayesh Patel, but he has not withdrawn his nomination.
Talking to The Indian Express, Brijesh Patel said, “I decided to withdraw my form as I wanted Jayesh Patel to continue. Tuesday was last day for withdrawal of nomination and when I went to the Olplad mamlatdar office at 5 pm, I was told that the time for withdrawal was till 3 pm. Now, I have announced that I will support Jayesh Patel.”
According to sources, CR Paatil as Surat district incharge, had called a meeting of both the groups at Circuit house and tried to convince them, but failed. Paatil said, “I am aware about the internal conflict in Surat unit, and i will try to sort them once I return to Surat. I will again call a meeting of both the groups soon.”
Other heavy weights in the fray are Naresh Patel, Chairman of Surat District Co-operative Bank is contesting from Choryasi seat from Mansinh Patel group. However, three candidates are contesting elections independently on Dolvan, Mandvi and Mahuva seats.
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