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Friday, March 1, 2024
Udaipur Standard Hindi

Karnataka polls: Not Kannada pride but milk federation voter impact, why BJP is worried about Nandini vs Amul controversy

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Customer at Nandini milk shop in Bengaluru.  The Amul vs Nandini controversy has given ammunition to the opposition parties to corner the ruling BJP.  (Image: PTI/Shailendra Bhojak)

Customer at Nandini milk shop in Bengaluru. The Amul vs Nandini controversy has given ammunition to the opposition parties to corner the ruling BJP. (Image: PTI/Shailendra Bhojak)

Around 26 lakh farmers supply milk to Karnataka Milk Federation daily. There are about 15,000 small milk societies in 28,000 villages, while the federation employs about 2 lakh workers

The Amul vs Nandini controversy has given the opposition ammunition to invoke Kannada pride and corner the BJP. But the BJP is not too worried about this narrative being created by the opposition parties.

What has spooked the saffron camp is the impact the controversy could have on voters who are directly or indirectly linked to the Karnataka Milk Federation.

Wide reach and spread of KMF

About 26 lakh farmers supply about 82 lakh liters of milk daily to the Federation. There are about 15,000 small milk societies spread across 28,000 villages. Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF) also provides employment to around two lakh workers.

Speaker Balachandra Jarkiholi, who is a BJP MLA, expressed suspicion that the opposition is fanning the controversy because of the KMF’s wide reach and spread.

“Elections have come. If even 10 lakh farmers supply milk daily and each family has four to five people, you are inciting 50 lakh people. Opposition parties are trying to brainwash them. They will not talk about it after the elections.

The BJP tried its best to downplay the issue to ensure that it does not cost the party in the upcoming elections. A BJP leader, on the condition of anonymity, said, “The first two days, we did not react properly, but after that we managed to do some damage control.”

Milk union important springboard for politicians

Most of the 26 lakh farmers who supply milk to KMF are from the old Mysuru region. Around 61 seats spread over Kolar, Chikkaballapur, Bengaluru Rural, Tumakuru, Ramanagara, Mandya, Mysore, Chamarajanagar, Kodagu and Hassan districts play a major role in the election. The JD(S) has traditionally done well here and the Congress is the main challenger. Former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy was one of the first to raise the issue.

“If the opposition parties keep it up till polling day or Amul’s ploy actually starts hurting farmers then it could hurt the BJP. Otherwise it cannot be in the mind of the farmers,” said senior journalist BS Arun.

The opposition Congress is trying to keep the issue alive. Also at the ‘Jai Bharat’ rally in Kolar, former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah accused Union Home Minister Amit Shah of creating an artificial shortage of Nandini products to help Amul gain a foothold in Karnataka.

After becoming the Cooperative Minister, Amit Shah tried to get Nandini to join Amul. Now he is trying to market Amul products in Karnataka. He is creating an artificial shortage of Nandini products to bring Amul to Karnataka. Milk production has come down from 99 lakh liters to 81 lakh litres.

Milk unions are an important springboard for many politicians. Home minister Araga Gyanendra and other politicians trace their roots to milk unions. Many opposition leaders believe that the formation of a Union ministry of cooperatives in 2021 was a sinister plan to take over powerful cooperatives in the state and thus gain political space at the district level.

Currently, there are 18 directors on the KMF board affiliated with either the JD(S) or the Congress, while Jarkiholi is the only BJP-affiliated director.

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