Congress-NCP ties sour, but Rahul talks sugar with Pawar

Written by Sanjay Jog | Mumbai | Updated: Mar 5 2009, 05:01am hrs
Even when the Congress and NCP have been adamant on their stands for seat sharing in Maharashtra, the Congress youth leader Rahul Gandhi huddled with the NCP supremo Sharad Pawar for over four hours to discuss the present state of sugar industry and its future especially in the current meltdown. The meeting took place at the Vasantdada Sugar Institute (VSI) near Pune, a prime institute engaged in the research and development (R&D) of the sugarcane and the sugar industry.

Pawar confirmed his meeting with Rahul and told FE It was quite well planned meeting as Rahul had desired to understand the present status of the cooperative sugar industry and its future in Maharashtra in particular. YSP Thorat former chairman of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) and currently the chairman of a task force and the VSI director general Shivajirao Deshmukh also shared his views. Rahul will also visit the best run sugar factories in the sugarcane rich Kolhapur on Wednesday. Pawar made it clear that the discussion was restricted to the cooperative sugar sector.

However, rumors were in full swing that Rahul met Pawar as a representative of Congress president Sonia Gandhi to discuss politics and the possible seat sharing formula in Maharashtra . However, both the Congress and NCP have categorically said that Rahul did not have any political agenda but to understand sugar sector.

Sources, who were present at the presentation, said Rahul was quite impressed with the manner in which the cooperative sugar industry has stabilised in the state. He was quite curious to know how the benefits of the industry penetrated to the suburbs and rural areas. Besides, Rahul wanted to know why Maharshtra pattern cannot be replicated in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress partys erstwhile bastion.

According to sources, Pawar explained that unlike state advisory price, Maharashtra cooperative sugar industry gives statutory minimum price to cane growers. By and large, there is a positive control of the state government. Besides, Pawar said parallels cannot be drawn between the Maharashtra and UP sugar sector as the latter are in the private sector.

Further, Pawar informed that cooperative sugar sector has brought in development in the physical infrastructure especially roads, irrigation, water supply and social infrastructure such as schools, colleges, hospitals in the rural areas. Moreover, it has also benefited the cooperative milk structure.

AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi and MP Suresh Kalamad, in Pune on Tuesday