Worried that the big-ticket reforms in the co-operative sector could destabalise its political clout, the Congress-NCP-run government is planning to seek a one-year extension from the Centre to implement the 97th constitutional amendment, which will be binding from February 15.
The amendment, cleared last year, aims to bring autonomy and transparency to the co-operative sector, which is the backbone of state politics.
Nearly half of India’s co-operative bodies — 2.5 lakh — are in Maharashtra. Ranging from sugar co-operatives to district co-operative banks, they are controlled by politicians, especially from the ruling alliance. The reforms could challenge existing political hierarchies, which the parties don’t want with just a year left for the elections.
Once the amendment is binding, elections to all societies have to be held again, under the aegis of a newly formed election authority. There are 158 changes to be implemented, most aimed at curbing political interference.
“It’s not about losing political clout. There are practical difficulties in implementing the law. Given that we have limited leg room to make changes, we would like to seek a one-year extension from the Centre,” state co-operation minister Harshawardhan Patil said.
On Tuesday, when legislators met at Vidhan Bhavan to discuss the issue, most opposed the reforms.