His connect with the co-operative sector started when Amit Shah was elected as the youngest president of the ADC Bank, winning the election in the mid-nineties at the age of 36. Shah had out-manoeuvred Ghanshyam Amin, the elder brother of Narhari Amin, a close confidant of former chief minister Chimanbhai Patel, who was at the helm of affairs at ADC Bank. Shah managed to turn around the bleeding bank.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah is no stranger to the co-operative sector –– an area which has taught him valuable lessons in political strategising and the power it has in establishing a connect with the rural hinterland and the resultant political potential it could unravel.
In fact, with sugar cooperatives playing an important role in Maharashtra, Shah may have more space to strengthen the party in the state, maintains an analyst.
His connect with the co-operative sector started when Amit Shah was elected as the youngest president of the Ahmedabad District Cooperative (ADC) Bank, winning the election in the mid-nineties at the age of 36. Shah had out-manoeuvred Ghanshyam Amin, the elder brother of Narhari Amin, a close confidant of former chief minister Chimanbhai Patel, who was at the helm of affairs at ADC Bank. Shah managed to turn around the bleeding bank.
Following the collapse of the Madhavpura Mercantile Bank, Shah helped in cushioning its damaging effect which would have otherwise meant the collapse of the urban cooperative banking sector in Gujarat.
“In a span of less than a year, Amitbhai had made about a hundred trips to Delhi to convince Atalji (Vajpayee) and the then finance minister Yaswant Sinha for adequate policy changes to be made to save the bank,” said Yamal Vyas, spokesperson of the Gujarat BJP and a leading chartered accountant.
While Shah learnt the working of the cooperative sector through the process in the most intimate manner, he also realised the political potential of the sector that touched maximum number of people across rural and urban areas.
While he bequeathed charge of the ADC Bank to Ajay Patel after becoming a minister in 2002, Shah gradually worked at the other district cooperative banks which were generally headed by Congress leaders and, over the years, established BJP’s supremacy in most of them.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior BJP worker in Gujarat pointed out that Shah’s realisation of the political importance of cooperatives soon took him to the dairy sector in the state. By 2006, octogenarian milkman of India Verghese Kurien resigned from the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCCMMF). Kurian’s resignation was followed by the election of a BJP candidate Parthi Bhatol as its president.
The tumultuous election presided over by the district collector of Anand saw four of the 12 members of the board, comprising chairmen of dairies under the GCMMF, owing allegiance to Kurien, including the chairpersons of milk co-operatives of Mehsana, Kheda, Rajkot and Vadodara, walking out alleging interference by the Gujarat government.
However, over the next few years, these cooperatives too were taken over by the BJP candidates.
“The entry of the party in the dairy cooperatives resulted in serious electoral benefits in areas like North Gujarat, which were traditionally Congress bastions,” admitted a BJP functionary from Gujarat.
It is the learnings in these fields that Shah successfully employed during his stint in UP, ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. “The technique that Shah adopted in Uttar Pradesh is exactly the same as that he did for the cooperative sector,” said a source to ET. “First, he identifies his target and then he goes after it with all guns blazing,” he added.
Observers maintain that Shah’s grip over the cooperative sector in Gujarat as well as his skills in handling the sector would come handy for the BJP across western states like Gujarat, as well as Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, which are due for election.