Explainer: The Amul vs Nandini battle in poll-bound Karnataka

What is the Amul Vs Nandini battle? Why is the Opposition against Amul's foray into Bengaluru with its brand of milk and curd? An explainer on the controversy roiling poll-bound Karnataka

Amul vs Nandini war, protests in Bengaluru
Amul vs Nandini war hots up: Members of pro Kannada organisation 'Kannada Rakshana Vedike' protest over the entry of Amul products in Bengaluru. Pic: PTI

As the Amul vs Nandini battle hots up in poll-bound Karnataka, it is at the heart of a seemingly corporate war to do with Kannadiga pride and the rural economy dependent on the home-grown brand.

And the ruling BJP may have to do a tightrope walk to steer clear of the issue that may well dominate the political narrative in the coming days. This is because it has hogged much of the limelight over the weekend.

What is the Amul Vs Nandini battle? Why does the Opposition see red over the Gujarat dairy brand’s Bengaluru foray with its brand of milk and curd. An explainer from PTI seeks to shed light on the issue.

Gujarat-based dairy cooperative Amul’s announcement on April 5 to enter the Karnataka market to supply its milk and curd has given the Opposition yet another ammunition to fire at the ruling BJP, though it comes months after Union home minister Amit Shah’s announcement that the two brand’s cooperation could “do wonders” for the dairy sector. Shah also holds the Cooperation portfolio.


The Opposition Congress and the JD(S) have trained their guns at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in the state when the assembly elections are just a month away, expressing fears that Nandini, the ₹21,000 crore brand, from the Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF), could be merged with the Gujarat-based Amul. The people of the state have an emotional connect with Nandini.

The Opposition alleges that the BJP wants to merge the 49-year-old KMC’s Nandini with its much elder Anand Milk Union Limited (AMUL) so that there could be “One nation, one Amul” in the country. The BJP has emphatically rejected the charge.

AICC general secretary and Karnataka party in-charge Randeep Surjewala alleged the BJP was trying to “sell off” Nandini. Former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy too flayed the state government on this issue. Kumaraswamy, the JD(S) second-in-command, alleged Amul has this bad thinking to finish off its lone competitor Nandini in Karnataka itself.

Also read: Amid row over Amul, Bengaluru hoteliers support ‘state’s dairy brand’ Nandini

The BJP led central government’s official policy is “One Nation, One Amul, One Milk and One Gujarat,” he said.

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said the government is clear on the issue of Amul. Accusing Congress of politicising Amul’s entry to Karnataka, Bommai said: “We have absolute clarity with regard to Amul. Nandini is a national brand. It is not restricted to Karnataka. We have popularised Nandini as a brand in other states as well.”

The Chief Minister stressed that several major dairies of KMF in the state have been established during BJP rule. While a litre of Nandini’s toned milk costs ₹39, the same quantity of Amul is priced at ₹52.

The Explainer:

Why Amul’s announcement to sell its milk and curd in Karnataka became an issue?

In December last, Amit Shah during the inauguration of KMF’s mega dairy in Mandya said the “cooperation between Amul and Nandini can do wonders in the dairy sector”. The Opposition construed that Shah had a plan to merge Nandini with Gujarat, which the ruling BJP in Karnataka rubbished.

In the last week of March this year, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) directed to write “Dahi” in Hindi on curd packets apart from the local nomenclature, which the Opposition parties dubbed as an imposition of the language.

Wasn’t Amul operating in Karnataka before?

Amul had been selling its butter, ghee, yogurt and ice-cream in the state for a very long time. Not just Amul, there are some other dairy brands selling packaged milk and curd such as Dodla and Heritage (Telangana), Tirumala, Arokya and Milky Mist (TN), Namdhari and Akshayakalpa (Karnataka).

Also read: Milk war hots up: Amul’s entry has Karnataka on the boil

What is the Opposition’s fear?

The Opposition parties fear that the government will create scarcity of Nandini products, making it less competitive to Amul and force people to buy Amul products once its milk and curd are allowed to be sold.

What is the BJP government’s defence?

It has dismissed the charge saying there is no plan to merge Nandini with Amul. Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai alleged that the Congress and the JD(S) are trying to mislead people and create fear among them. He said the milk production increased during the current saffron party rule.

Is there any decline in milk production?

The Bangalore Milk Union Limited (BAMUL), part of KMF, admitted production has declined owing to summer, which happens every year. Milk production has reduced from 90 lakh litres a day to 75 lakh litres a day.

What is the size of Nandini’s business?

The second largest cooperative institution after Amul, Nandini is a ₹21,000 crore brand of the KMF, according to BAMUL director P Nagaraju. He adds Amul produces 1.8 crore litres of milk everyday, while KMF churns out over 90 lakh litres a day.

Why is Nandini a market leader?

Nagaraju says milk prices are competitive, quality is superior with zero adulteration, good network of milk producers and milk union and it is the people’s pride.

Also read: Amit Shah milks benefits of Amul-Nandini merger during visit, triggers political storm

Where else does KMF sell its products other than Karnataka?

Nandini products are sold in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Maharashtra. Some of its products are exported too.

If Nandini can sell its products in other states, what is wrong in Amul doing business in Karnataka?

According to Nagaraju, Maharashtra State Cooperative Milk Federation Limited, also known as Mahanand Dairy, is not doing good business ever since Amul entered the market. Similarly, the cooperative milk federations did not pick up much in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

Why is it vital for the Karnataka BJP to steer clear of this controversy?

When the rural economy is dependent on KMF and the emotions of Kannadigas are deeply attached to the Nandini brand, it is essential for the ruling BJP to be seen supporting the Amul brand, to be able to retain power after the May 10 Assembly polls. The Congress and the JD(S) are leaving no stone unturned to make it a major poll plank, which has the potential to ruin the saffron party’s election prospects.

What is the BJP’s contribution to the cooperative sector?

The Opposition is wary of BJP’s electoral prospects in the rural areas, especially in old Mysuru region, where it made good inroads through various measures including the cooperative movement.

Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda’s elder son H D Revanna of the JD(S) was the KMF chairman for nine years. In 2019, the saffron party broke the 19 years of Janata Parivar’s domination in the milk cooperative sector. After winning the milk cooperative election where the representatives of 14 unions are the voters, the BJP made its Arabhavi MLA, Balachandra Jarkiholi the president.

The then Chief Minister, B S Yediyurappa offered an additional incentive of ₹2 to the milk producers in 2008, which did wonders. With the surplus milk, the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government launched the Ksheera Bhagya scheme for school children in 2013.