Sugar Lobby: 16 ministers in Maha cabinet associated with sugar industry

Mumbai: Despite a change in the government, the sugar barons will continue to play a crucial role in Maharashtra politics. Of the 42 ministers in the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray led council of ministers, 16 are actively associated with the sugar industry which is passing through a severe financial crisis. This number is almost four times more than sugar industry representatives who were ministers in the previous BJP-led government in the state between 2014 and 2019. Sugar industry sources believe they may expect achhe din with their representatives in the state cabinet.

Of the 16 ministers, eight NCP ministers including deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and seven ministers Jayant Patil, Dilip Walse Patil, Hasan Mushrif, Balasaheb Patil, Rajesh Tope, Dhananjay Munde and Prajakt Tanpure are credited with running sugar mills efficiently and also for successfully launching joint businesses including cogeneration and molasses production. Incidentally, Walse-Patil, who is a close confidant of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, is the chairman of the National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories.

NCP minister Jayant Patil told FPJ, "The sugar industry is in a deep financial stress and the government intervention is required for its survival. The issues faced by the industry will be prominently flagged off with the presence of 17 ministers in the council of ministers.''

On the other hand, Congress heavyweights including former chief minister Ashok Chavan, state party chief and senior minister Balasaheb Thorat, former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh's son and cabinet minister Amit Deshmukh and ministers of state Satej Patil and Vishwajeet Kadam have an ample experience to run sugar mills and related businesses.

In Shiv Sena, three-term legislator Shambhuraj Desai, who was sworn in as the minister of state on Monday, has been engaged with sugar industry for over three decades. He inherited the sugar business from his grandfather and former minister late Balasaheb Desai and his father Shivajirao Desai.

Shankarrao Gadakh, who has become a cabinet minister from Shiv Sena quota, also comes from the sugar industry. Gadakh is the son of former MP and veteran leader from the cooperative sector Yashwantrao Gadakh from Ahmednagar district who founded Mula Cooperative Sugar Factory way back in 1979.

Furthermore, Rajendra Yedravkar, an independent who was made minister of state from the Shiv Sena quota, hails from the cooperative sector rich Kolhapur district. He was involved in the operation of Sharad Cooperative Sugar Factory.

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