Maharashtra's sugar industry is expecting a much-needed boost as 16 ministers in the Uddhav Thackeray government are associated with the sugar industry. A majority of them are from Western Maharashtra, where politics is largely dominated by Sharad Pawar's NCP. Besides, some are from the Marathwada region.
The back-to-back drought and last year's mega floods in Western Maharashtra has given a big blow to state's sugar industry.
The eight NCP ministers associated with the sugar industry are Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, Jayant Patil, Dilip Walse-Patil, Hasan Mushrif, Balasaheb Patil, Rajesh Tope, Dhananjay Munde and Prajakt Tanpure. From the Congress side, ministers include Ashok Chavan, who is a former Chief Minister, Balasaheb Thorat, Amit Deshmukh, the son of late Vilasrao Deshmukh, Satej Patil and Vishwajeet Kadam. From the Shiv Sena, Shamburaj Desai is linked to the sugar-industry. Independent MLA and minister Shankarrao Gadakh and Rajendra Patil Yadravkar are also associated with sugar industry.
The previous Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP-Sena government had just four ministers linked to sugar industry.
The sugar factories in Western Maharashtra are spread over Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara, Pune and Ahmednagar. The sugar lobby politicians control them and many of them are also associated with milk cooperatives, dairies and banks. Traditionally, the Congress-NCP politicians has been controlling or cpmprising the sugar lobby.
The cooperative movement in the sugar industry started in 1960s in Maharashtra. In the last six decades, it has encouraged rural political participation.
The pioneers of the cooperative movement were Dr Dhananjay Ramchandra Gadgil, the then Vice Chairman of Planning Commission and Vitthalrao Vikhe-Patil, the father of late union minister and Balasaheb Vikhe-Patil and grandfather of Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil.
The Ahmednagar district, which is the biggest district of Maharashtra, has the maximum sugar mills. Totally, the state has around 170 cooperative sugar factories.