In the elections for the board of directors of Malegaon Cooperative Sugar Mill, held on Tuesday, the ‘Neelkanteshwar panel’, backed by the NCP, won 17 of the 21 seats. The results came as a relief for senior NCP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who had lost his hold over the mill in the last election, held in 2015.
Located in Baramati taluka of Pune district, the mill holds special significance for the Pawar family as both party chief and former Union Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, and his nephew Ajit Pawar, are voting members of the board. Of the three cooperative mills in the area, this was the only one not controlled by a miller backed by the Pawars.
In the 2015 board election, a panel led by Ranjan Kaka Taware had managed to win the elections, much to the dismay of the Pawar family.
Over the last five years, the Malegaon mill had made headlines due to the higher cane prices it paid to growers. Meanwhile, Taware gravitated towards the BJP, and then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and BJP state chief Chandrakant Patil visited the mill multiple times.
Chandanrao Taware, a director of the mill, had played an important role in the functioning of the mill. While he is a life-long friend of Sharad Pawar, Chandanrao had fallen out with Ajit Pawar over the years. Chandanrao’s nephew Rajanan kept his distance from both the Pawars and used his proximity with the BJP to get financial and other benefits for the mill.
While most mills were refused permission to expand in the last five years, the Malegaon sugar mill was allowed to do so. The growing influence of the BJP on a mill located in the Pawars’ bastion had not gone down well with the family.
Ajit Pawar had taken a personal interest in the recent elections and held multiple meetings over it. The electoral victory on Tuesday will help the Pawar family further strengthen its hold in the region.