The late Gopinath Munde’s family has taken its longstanding feud to the sugar factory he set up, with his daughter and nephew fighting for control.
The family’s Vaidyanath Sahakar Sakhar Karkhana, or Vaidyanath sugar cooperative factory, will next week elect a 45-member board that will, in turn, elect a panel. Munde’s daughter Pankaja Munde, a minister in the Maharashtra government, skipped the budget season to be in Beed in time to file her nomination with her sister Yashashree.
On the other side are their cousin Dhananjay Munde of the NCP, who leads the opposition in the legislative council, and his father Panditrao Munde, Gopinath’s brother. Each side has fielded candidates for all 45 seats. The factory has 7,046 electors.
Cooperative elections may have limited appeal because no one outside the factories vote but power in this wealthy bodies is crucial to political networking and control of an assembly constituency in the Marathwada region, if not a district.
Gopinath Munde, who set up the cooperative in 2006, was its chairman until his death last year. For the next few years, Dhananjay was seen as his blue-eyed boy whom he engaged in both politics and finances. The split came in the 2009 elections, when Munde chose to field Pankaja from Parli rather than Dhananjay, who quit the BJP and joined the NCP. In the last assembly election, Pankaja defeated Dhananjay by 25,895 votes.
“Yes, the cooperative elections are going to be bitterly contested because of our strained relations,” Dhananjay readily agrees. “It was my father Panditrao who worked painstakingly for the success of the factory but they have framed a case against him for tampering with the register.”
“Everybody knows the sugar factory has been successful because of Gopinathji’s identity and effort,” an MLA in Pankaja’s camp counters. “As far as the FIR is concerned, it was justified as Panditrao Munde was trying to tamper with records.”