Amid speculations that have already begun about whether the BJP would go with Bhupendra Patel as the chief minister after winning the Gujarat elections in December, Union Home and Cooperation Minister Amit Shah on Sunday credited union minister Parshottam Rupala for creating a separate cooperation minister.
Former Union Minister of State for Agriculture and the present one for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Rupala is a Patidar leader from the all-important Saurashtra region – the politically crucial area of concern for the ruling party in Gujarat.
With Amit Shah dropping his name at the annual general meeting (AGM) of seven cooperative institutions in Amreli in Saurashtra region, which is where Parshottam Rupala hails from, the political tongues have started wagging. “It is unusual for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah to praise a union minister in so many words,” a BJP leader said, requesting anonymity.
Speaking at the AGM, Amit Shah said, “When Rupala was the Minister of State for Agriculture, he talked about the condition of cooperative leaders in Krishi Bhavan. If there is anybody who first told Narendrabhai (Modi) about setting up a separate cooperation ministry, it is Parshottam Rupalaji.”
He went on, “Later Narendra Modiji asked me to inquire and explore this. I immediately said there is nothing to inquire since this is the need of the hour and so let’s do this. Modi-ji then carved out a separate cooperation ministry as a new effort to make crores of farmers of the country prosperous.”
The BJP suffered huge reverses in the Patidar-dominated Saurashtra region in the 2017 elections and was the first time reduced to a double digit number of 99 MLAs in a House of 182 legislators.
The key reason for this was the Patidar agitation by firebrand community leader Hardik Patel. With Hardik having already joined the BJP, empowering an old warhorse Patidar leader like Parshottam Rupala could be of immense help to the BJP in the December polls.
Speaking of the cooperation ministry’s future plans, Amit Shah told the AGM that the Centre planned to make primary agricultural credit societies (PACS) “multi-purpose” and model bylaws had already been framed.
He said there were also plans afoot to constitute a multi-state cooperative society for seed culture and marketing as well as certification of organic products across the country.
The Union Cooperation Minister said, “Seva Sahkari Mandali (PACS) will be a multipurpose facility with marketing, godowns, making gobar (dung) gas, electricity bill collection, facility for gas distribution agencies, Nal Se Jal scheme, among other things.”
“The model bylaws are ready for this multi-purpose mandali and it will be sent to you before September-end,” Amit Shah added.
The minister said the government aimed to raise the number of PACS in the country from the existing 65,000 to three lakh during the next five years starting from December.
“The day three lakh PACS are registered, there will be one PACS in every panchayat in the country,” he said, adding that the government has also undertaken their computerisation.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emphasis on natural farming, the government plans to set up a multi-state cooperative for marketing and certification of organic products, which will directly benefit farmers involved in organic farming, Shah said at the event.