In a decision that could have larger political repercussions, the state electricity regulator on Thursday merged the controversial Mula Pravara Electricity Cooperative Society with the state power distribution company.
The merger will be effective from February 1 because the society’s distribution licence expires on January 31.
Senior Congress leader Balasaheb Vikhe Patil and his state cabinet minister son Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil control the Mula Pravara Electricity Cooperative Society, the state’s only rural cooperative in power distribution.
The society has been supplying power to 183 villages in five tehsils of Ahmednagar district for the last 40 years. It buys bulk power from Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company (MSEDC) for retailing at much lower rates.
The merger will dispel the disparity between Ahmednagar and the rest of Maharashtra.
“Though agriculture consumers here have been paying at par with MSEDC’s consumers, the residential and other consumers will pay about double of what they are charged now. But it’s not clear what would happen with our employees,” the society’s managing director Vijay Pandit told Hindustan Times from Shrirampur.
As the society had not paid dues of around Rs 2,200 crore to MSEDC, the state company had asked for cancellation of its licence and demanded that it not be allowed to do business.
Following the petition, the power regulator held independent inquires and a public hearing and allowed the merger on Thursday. It said that the society was not bankable.
Radhakrishna had alleged at the public hearing that the MSEDC’s demand was prompted by their political rival, deputy chief minister and energy minister Ajit Pawar, a senior Nationalist Congress Party leader.
The two families have a history of political enmity for the last four decades.
The state company has been arguing its case for long but it got aggressive after Pawar took over as energy minister last year. Pawar had said he would not buckle under political pressure to provide relief to Mula Pravara.
Losing the society would mean a big political loss for the Vikhe Patils, who took pride in the fact that their voters paid less in electricity charges than the 1.80 crore consumers in rest of Maharashtra.
Radhakrishna did not respond to our repeated calls. Pawar was unavailable for comment, but sources said he was happy to have won a favourable verdict.