Amit Shah milks benefits of Amul-Nandini merger during visit, triggers political storm
Home minister Amit Shah’s two-day visit to Karnataka may have led the Opposition parties, Congress and Janata Dal (S) to re-think their election strategies, but his statement regarding Karnataka’s pride, dairy brand Nandini, has whipped up a storm in the state and attracted ire from various quarters.
On December 30, Shah, who is also the cooperation minister, inaugurated the Mega Dairy of the Mandya District Milk Union (MANMUL) in Mandya and during his speech stated that if Amul and Nandini jointly work together there will be primary diaries at every village level in three years time. He also said that the Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF) will get all technical support and cooperation from Amul, adding that if Karnataka and Gujarat come together in this direction, it will benefit the farmers all over the country.
In his speech, the Union cooperation minister started off talking about how around 66,000 kg milk used to be processed daily in Karnataka in 1975, while today over 82 lakh kg milk is processed daily and 80 per cent of the total turnover goes to the farmer. The White Revolution in Gujarat too has changed the fortunes of the farmers and through Amul, 60,000 crore rupees is deposited into the bank accounts of about 36 lakh women annually, he elaborated.
Shah then went on to state that he would like to assure all the farmer brothers and sisters of Karnataka that Amul and Nandini will work together towards establishing primary dairies in every village of Karnataka. And that in the next three years there will not be a single village in Karnataka where primary dairy will not be established.
The Union home and cooperation minister further stated that the KMF will be provided with technical support, cooperative sector support and overall functioning support from Amul and all its requirements will be addressed by the ministry of cooperation. He said that Gujarat and Karnataka together can work for the welfare of the milk producing farmers of the whole country.
Shah’s statement kicks up a political storm
Shah’s statement triggered a political slugfest. Even as the general public started a campaign called #SaveNandini on social media, many leaders including former CM Siddaramaiah, former CM HD Kumaraswamy, and KPCC president DK Shivakumar slammed Shah’s statement.
Opposition leader Siddaramaiah accused the ruling BJP of destroying the popular banks from the state and harming the economy and said the Union minister’s proposal for a marriage between Nandini and Amul brands was nothing but an attempt to cause grave injustice to 25 lakh farmers, depending on dairy farming in the state. Any coming together of the two milk federations would result in loss of livelihood for members of Karnataka, he said.
“Eyes of the Gujarat corporates are now fixed on the golden egg laying goose. It is an attempt of the BJP to rob Karnataka,” alleged Siddaramaiah. He lashed out at the BJP leaders saying that if this evil Bhasmasura is not curbed, then the 25 lakh farmer families will be thrown out on the streets.
Meanwhile, HD Kumaraswamy said that the merger of Nandini with Amul is not possible. “KMF is not only the lifeline of Kannadigas but the asset and identity of all Kannadigas. It would be good if Amit Shah understood all this. Why is Shah showing intolerance towards Karnataka? I suspect it is to make Kannadigas slaves of Gujarat. After subsuming Karnataka-based banks that were a model to the country, this is a hidden agenda,” he said.
Meanwhile a KMF office bearer said, “Amul is no longer a Gujarat cooperative. The merger of the Karnataka Co-operative Milk Producers Federation (KMF) with such an organisation is fatal for the cooperative sector. There is nothing like learning for KMF from Amul.”
Amit Shah spoke about this for the first time at the North Eastern States Council meeting in Guwahati, Assam on October 9 last year. “To get recognition for the natural products of the country abroad, it is intended to merge the five major cooperative milk unions of the country,” he had said.
However, the KMF officer bearer pointed out that Nandini has grown to become the biggest brand after Amul. “It is true that if the two join, the market share will increase. But merging is not right. ‘Cooperative’ is an organisation related to local people. The more it merges, the more distant it becomes from the natives. If we join forces with Amul, which is bigger than KMF, we will have to listen to what Amul says,” he warned.
Karnataka CM’s clarification
Amid the political slugfest that broke out in the state, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and his cabinet colleagues hastily clarified that the home minister didn’t mean to say that there will be a ‘merger’ of Amul and Nandini but it was more a matter of “cooperation” between the two bodies. Bommai said that Nandini will always maintain its separate identity in the next hundred years.
He told the media that the merger of Nandini into AMUL should not be criticised since it is in the imagination and not a reality. Further, he added that the Union minister for home and cooperation has spoken with clarity and what he meant was that each one must cooperate, and both Nandini and Amul must cooperate in technical and marketing matters.
Shah had said these are two big companies and they should work hand in hand in cooperation and that does not mean a merger. The Nandini brand will remain as a separate identity permanently for hundreds of years, Bommai reiterated.
The CM said Shah had said there will be benefits if both of them worked together in some areas. If Nandini or Amul is technically ahead, the same thing can be exchanged, and there could also be an exchange in administrative matters. The Union minister’s statement must not be misunderstood and politicised, he said.
“As the CM, I am saying that Nandini will be a separate identity forever,” stressed Bommai.
KMF and politics
With nearly 26 lakh milk producing members across 16 district unions, KMF has reported a turnover of nearly ₹19,800 crore in 2021-2022.
Earlier, JD(S) leaders controlled KMF as the family of the former PM, HD Devegowda, has always had an eye on KMF. The KMF has always been used as a means for political parties to reach voters during elections.
JD(S) leader and Deve Gowda’s son HD Revanna has been part of KMF politics for many years. DV Sadananda Gowda had also tried to become the chairman of KMF before becoming CM but he lost the elections. However, he was made CM later in the BJP government when BSY resigned from the post in 2011. After BJP came to power in Karnataka, its leaders succeeded in wresting control and head the KMF. BJP MLA Balachandra Jarakiholi is currently the chairman of KMF.