In his maiden two-day visit to Maharashtra, after becoming the cooperation minister, Amit Shah on Saturday led a veiled attack on the NCP and the Congress, but without naming them, for the mess in the cooperative sector and indicated that he is gearing up for a cleanup.
Shah, while addressing the meeting in Ahmednagar -- which was organised by BJP leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, who is an arch-rival of NCP chief Sharad Pawar -- referred to alleged scams and irregularities in cooperative banks involving crores.
"We need to free the cooperative movement of its lacunae. There was a time when district cooperative banks were looked up to, but today there are only three left. How did scams involving crores happen? Did the RBI do it? No, the RBI didn't do it," he said, responding to his own question.
Shah made a strong case for the modernization of the sector but observed that the district cooperative banks, which were earlier hailed for their good performance, are mostly poorly managed now. '‘It is corruption which has paralyzed these banks and not the RBI norms,’’ he opined.
Incidentally, these banks are predominantly controlled by the NCP and the Congress leaders, but the BJP, in the last few years, has also made inroads in the cooperative banking sector. The Home Minister's comment coincided with the ongoing investigations by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate into the alleged Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank scam.
Further, Shah targeted the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government and blamed it for not providing bank guarantees to some sugar factories that are associated with the leaders of opposition, including the BJP. His remarks came days after the state cabinet gave bank guarantees for loans to be raised by the cooperative sugar factories controlled by the NCP and the Congress leaders.
Shah clarified that he has not come to score brownie points but to tell the cooperative movement that the Centre is with them. '‘But, simultaneously, we need to increase efficiency, bring in professionals and give them command," he said.
Shah, whom Pawar had recently met and pressed for assistance in the cooperative sugar sector, argued that the MVA government will have to rise above politics. ‘’I am not going to be a mute spectator. Maharashtra's cooperation movement is as holy as Kashi for many people," he said, adding that he was more interested in what cooperative societies were doing, rather than "who was managing them and their political inclinations".
On the ongoing verbal duel between the MVA and the BJP over the privatization of cooperative sugar factories, Shah said he is happy that the Pravara cooperative sugar factory, which was started by the visionary Dr Vitthalrao Vikhe Patil, still adheres to the cooperative philosophy.
‘’I have come not to break, but to add value. The state government should put politics aside and look at the cooperative sector,’’ he noted.
Shah clarified that the Centre is not inclined to privatize any sugar factory. ‘’We are making efforts to protect the cooperation sector. No one should try to advise me about the department of co-operation. We will not appoint any committee but will soon develop a cooperative university,’’ he said.
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