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Amul vs Nandini! Milk War in Karnataka becoming a potent Poll issue

Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi Milk is the new potent poll issue in Karnataka with the opposition Congress raising the pitch on protecting local dairy from predatory moves of Gujarat milk cooperative Amul and has launched a scathing attack on the BJP and central government for attempts to ‘murder’ Kannadiga milk cooperative – Karnataka Milk Federation and […]

Edited By : Lakshmana | Updated: Apr 12, 2023 13:19 IST
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Milk War in Karnataka
Image Credits: News24

Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi

Milk is the new potent poll issue in Karnataka with the opposition Congress raising the pitch on protecting local dairy from predatory moves of Gujarat milk cooperative Amul and has launched a scathing attack on the BJP and central government for attempts to ‘murder’ Kannadiga milk cooperative – Karnataka Milk Federation and its Nandini brand.

The Congress double engine – former CM Siddaramaiah and KPCC chief DK Shivakumar – have successfully tapped into local regional sentiments bordering on sub-nationalism and are making emotional pitches, aimed at the Kannada people, invoking Kannada pride weaving it all into a poll issue that promises good tidings for it.

DK Shivakumar, on his way to Sringeri, stopped midway and bought Nandini products to show solidarity with the Nandini, which helps Karnataka farmers by purchasing their milk, with a band of camera crews in place.

“Nandini products are good and we do not want some outside product to come and kill our goods, and the livelihood of the people,” Shivakumar said.

On the backfoot after this Amul move, also be seen in the backdrop of a possible central government move of a merger of Nandini with Amul, the BJP leaders are trying their best to allay the fears of the people on this score.

In fact, Twitter is buzzing with a campaign “Save Nandini”.

For sure, slowly, the milk war has become a potent poll issue, and Congress and even the Janata Dal (United) have decided to ride on this, especially as supporters of the BJP are seen backing the Gujarat brand. Former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy has hit out against the central government and said instead of moving to weaken the Karnataka Milk Federation, the central government should give subsidies to farmers of Karnataka and protect them.

On the ground in the marketplace, local hotels and restaurants have declared they would boycott Amul products. The local hotels association has made it very clear they will purchase Nandini products in Bangalore and Karnataka. Local businessmen, many of whom are outsiders themselves, realise the problems they will face if they don’t respect the local sentiments and hop onto the Save Nandini campaign.

There is a perception growing in Karnataka that Nandini of the Karnataka Milk Federation, the country’s second-largest milk producer is under attack from Amul, the Gujarat-based milk cooperative. It recently announced its intention to sell milk in Bengaluru, sparking off a sharp attack from Kannada activists. Clearly, this has queered the pitch for the Basavaraj Bommai government.

A potent poll issue for the May 10 Assembly elections to Karnataka assembly, the milk war is developing into an interesting battle occupying the mind space and the Congress and JD (S) managing to paint the BJP as the villain of the piece.

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On Twitter, ‘Save Nandini’ trending, with several spirited activists condemning the state government for allowing a brand from Gujarat a big play in the Karnataka market.

Former Chief Minister S Siddaramaiah accused the ‘double engine’ governments of the BJP – at the centre and in Karnataka – of trying to destroy the Karnataka Milk Federation by bringing in Amul.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Cooperation Minister Amit Shah are responsible for such attempts,” the former Chief Minister alleged spinning a normal marketing decision of a brand to expand into a potent poll issue.

Siddaramaiah said that lakhs of families in Karnataka depend on KMF, but the dairy sector has taken a hit after Shah spoke about merging KMF with Amul. After there was a hue and cry over the move, now there is a fresh move by Amul to make a backdoor entry, he said. “Gujarat-based Amul had earlier also tried to enter the Karnataka market, but we did not allow it. Now the BJP has rolled the red carpet for it,” the Congress veteran said “milking the issue.”

He appealed to all Kannadigas to oppose the move and take a vow not to purchase Amul products.

Stung by this kind of attack, the Karnataka government swung in for damage limitation. State Cooperation Minister ST Somashekhar was fielded to reiterate the state’s support to KMF to blunt the Congress attack. “Nothing can disrupt or harm Nandini. In case of such a threat to the state’s brand, the government will not shy away from stepping up to safeguard Nandini,” the minister said in a press statement.

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Amul is not new to Karnataka and it has been selling several products for the past many years. But now the Gujarat-based milk cooperative wants to introduce its milk and curd, exactly like KMF that is expanding its operations into other states, the minister said.

Somashekhar said the superior quality, freshness, and affordability of Nandini will ensure that no one can face it in the market.

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First published on: Apr 10, 2023 06:39 PM IST

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