Kaira District Co-operative Milk Producers Union Limited, also known Amul, got a new chairman last month – BJP leader Vipul Patel, who wrested the post from Ramsinh Parmar, the former Congress leader who held the post for more than past two decades. The vice-chairmanship of the co-operative was passed on to Kanti Sodha Parmar, who was a former Congress MLA but joined the BJP recently.
Ramsinh Parmar, a former MLA, who had the held the post of the chairman of the dairy cooperative since 2002, defected from the Congress to the BJP in 2017, ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls that year. Vipul Patel, 52-year-old, on the other hand has been a popular leader of cooperatives and always has had his hands full with multiple posts in Anand and Kheda districts in Central Gujarat.
The Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), which markets its products under the brand name ‘Amul’, held its elections on January 24 this year. Noticeably, just ahead of the elections, four directors of Amul defected from the Congress to the BJP.
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The Congress, that has now lost its stronghold over the state’s oldest dairy co-operative, had won eight out of 11 seats in the last elections in 2020. The BJP, thereafter gained a majority in the other 18 milk unions in the state that also come under GCMMF.
Noticeably, after Tribhuvandas Patel, founder of the cooperative dairy, had voluntarily retired from the post of chairman of Amul in 1970, he was succeeded by several Congress leaders, until Ramsinh Parmar.
With Amul now in the hands of the BJP, the hold of the Congress has further diminished in its once stronghold Central Gujarat, especially in Anand and Kheda districts that have 7 lakh milk producers in village cooperatives.
Losing the milk cooperative is yet another setback for the Gujarat Congress since its performance in Assembly polls in December 2022 that reduced the party to 17 seats in the state, its lowest in the history of electoral politics.
Even as the new BJP government was assuming office after a month of its historic win, Congress was still gasping with its internal issues. A totally disarrayed Congress could decide on the leader of opposition (LoP) only after a notice from the speaker of the assembly. The speaker had to extend the deadline by five days for the party to announce five-term MLA and former GPCC Chief Amit Chavda as its LoP. Four-time Ahmedabad MLA and Dalit leader Shailesh Parmar was named deputy LoP.
Notably, the Congress is two MLAs short of claiming the official post of the opposition party owing to which the LoP will not get the perks of an official residence and office in the secretariat premises.
Trouble in party
This was soon followed by resignation of AICC Gujarat in-charge Raghu Sharma amid simmering demand for the resignation of state party president Jagdish Thakor by the rank and file of Congress in Gujarat. Following which, the Congress formed a three-member team, headed by Nitin Raut from Maharashtra, Saptagiri Sankar from Odisha and Shakeel Ahmad Khan, who had visited Gujarat in mid-January, to prepare a report.
However, even as the team prepared its report, Gujarat Congress’s disciplinary committee decided to suspend 33 party office bearers across the state for six years for anti-party activities during assembly polls in December 2022.
Amongst those suspended were former MLA PD Vasava, district Congress chief of Surendranagar Raiya Rathod, district Congress chief of Narmada Harendra Valand and another six office bearers. A total of 71 complaints were received for action and the names of 95 leaders were mentioned for their alleged activities against the party in the meeting.
In 2017 assembly polls, the party had bagged 77 seats. But, by the time of assembly polls in December 2022, 20 of its MLAs had defected to BJP, making a dent in the Congress vote bank. The first electoral setback for Congress after its performance in 2017 state polls came in the 2019 general elections. The BJP won all 26 parliamentary constituencies in the state with a vote share of 62.21 per cent. The Congress managed a vote share of 32.11 per cent but failed to bag any seat.
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Subsequently, in 2021 and 2022, Congress lost civic and local polls, losing its stronghold over rural and tribal areas to the BJP. In Surat, Congress’s dismal performance paved the way for Aam Admi Party in Gujarat electoral politics after it emerged as the main opposition in Surat Municipal Corporation.
Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra skipping Gujarat ahead of the state polls was considered the last blow for the morale of an already disarrayed party.