Congress, BJP lobbying hard for mandris support

Written by Mukesh Ranjan | Anand (Gujarat), Dec 11 | Updated: Dec 12 2007, 05:28am hrs
The dairy co-operatives in central Gujarat, otherwise autonomous economic bodies, are suddenly feeling the heat of political pulls and pressures as both the BJP and the Congress are desperately seeking their support by lobbying hard with the leaders of various mandris (milk mandals).

The success of the diary co-operative movement has also empowered rural pockets of this region with almost every village having a mandri with an elected head, who represents the village at the district level. The number of mandris in the 8,450 villages in districts like Ahmedabad, Gandhi Nagar, Vadodara, Anand, Panchmahals, Kheda, Dahod, Bharuch and Narmada form a significant votebank, which cannot be ignored.

On an average 200 to 300 families are associated with each mandris and they seldom go against his wishes. Knowing well their influence, the BJP is working hard to retain them in the backdrop of rebellion in the party and the kshatriya factor, the caste to which state Congress chief Bharat Sinh Solanki belongs to.

The region is electorally important otherwise too, as it sends the maximum number (62) of MLAs to the state Assembly. In the last Assembly polls, the BJP had won 42 seats from this region. Mandri leaders in fact, contend that barring the Anand diary, almost all other co-operatives sided with the BJP in the last elections.

Barring Anand, rest of the dairies are not managed so professionally and, therefore, have had to demonstrate political allegiance for survival, Vadodara dairy chief Ripan Bhai Ghajula said.

The mandris of Panchmahals, Dahod and Bharuch have already issued appeals to its members to support the Congress on December 16. Interestingly, Anand dairya Congress stronghold till Indira Gandhis timeswitched political allegiance subsequently.

We dont mix our political affiliation with our economic pursuit. We believe in doing things professionally and so we are the strongest dairy in the whole of the country, a senior manager said.