Vipul Chaudhary had been set to be ousted as chairman of GCMMF at the board meeting on Saturday
Ahmedabad: Gujarat Co-operative and Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) chairman Vipul Chaudhary won an 11th-hour reprieve on Friday when he obtained a stay from the Gujarat high court on a board meeting that had been set to oust him from the helm of Asia’s largest dairy federation.
The court will hear the matter in the second week of November, offering Chaudhary a breather until then.
He had been set to be ousted as chairman of GCMMF at the board meeting on Saturday after 14 out of 17 board members owing allegiance to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) passed a no-confidence motion against him.
Chaudhary, who has been accused of financial irregularities by the federation’s managing director, is also facing protests back home at the Mehsana Milk Union (MMU) which he chairs.
Chaudhary is alleged to have committed financial irregularities to the tune of ₹ 1,864 crore at MMU, which is a part of the federation, according to a letter written by GCMMF, a copy of which has been seen by Mint. The letter was written by R.S. Sodhi, managing director of the federation, which owns the Amul brand.
Chaudhury did not respond to calls made to his mobile phone.
This is the third time in six years that the BJP-dominated GCMMF is meeting to decide on the ouster of its chairman. The late Verghese Kurien and his successor P. G. Bhatol were ousted, but there were no allegations of financial wrongdoing against them.
Apart from money and power, politics plays a major role at GCMMF, which earned ₹ 13,735 crore of revenue in fiscal 2013, say people familiar with the dairy movement in Gujarat. Most of Gujarat's milk unions have in recent years shifted allegiance from the Congress to the BJP, which has won three consecutive terms in office in the state.
While the chairpersons of district milk producing unions are members of the board and powerful in their own areas, heading GCMMF gives them the clout of running Asia’s largest dairy federation with at least three million members from about 12,000 villages in Gujarat.
Incidentally, Chaudhary was seen accompanying Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi during his recent visit to Gujarat.
“The BJP will decide on who will be the next chairman if Chaudhary leaves," a senior GCMMF official said on conditions of anonymity.
Kurien had all along distanced himself from the BJP.
Kurien, a technocrat, was regarded by some as a “blue eyed boy" of the Congress.
At a public function in Anand, where Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi was present, Kurien on 5 January 2004, while quoting from a survey by a Japanese company, talked about political corruption and inefficiency in the country.
“This did not go down very well with the chief minister and his party. It was after this event that he started facing protests from the board that passed a no-confidence motion against him in 2005. Kurien's approach to work was apolitical," said a former top official of GCMMF who was present at the function.
Kurien stepped down on 20 March 2006 before an extraordinary general meeting to oust him took place.
Bhatol, who led a movement against Kurien’s ouster, faced the axe from the board after Chaudhary led 10 board members and moved a no-confidence motion against the chairman. Chaudhary was upset because the GCMMF chairman had not intervened when he was sacked by the state registrar of co-operatives in January 2007 on charges of alleged irregularities in recruitment in Dudhsagar Dairy’s Manesar unit in Haryana.
The day after he was sacked, Chaudhary had accused the Gujarat government of having directed the registrar to issue the order of his suspension on a public holiday. He was re-elected as chairman of Dudhsagar Dairy in 2008,
Bhatol, whose son is a BJP politician, somehow survived the no-confidence motion on 21 August 2010. He was succeeded by Chaudhary after his term ended. Bhatol did not respond to phone calls.
Chaudhary is also facing protests by dairy farmers, at least 10,000 of whom in September took out a rally against him, demanding higher price for their produce and an equitable share in profit.
“While Kurien often said that he was not running a charity organization and the rise in milk prices was for the benefit of the farmers, the milk prices that have been hiked by 72% in the last three years for the consumers, has not benefited the farmers supplying milk to MMU," said Mangalbhai Patel, president of Dudhsagar Sahakari Mandali that supplies milk to the dairy.
Patel, who daily supplies 1,000 litres of milk to Dudhsagar Dairy, says the farmers will protest again early next week against alleged irregularities and corruption in the dairy.