#Save Nandini, #Boycott Amul campaign gains momentum in poll-bound Karnataka

Opposition says that the Centre's attempt to corporatise dairy federations would affect the livelihoods of 26 lakh dairy farmers in Karnataka.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Apr 11, 2023 | 12:05 PMUpdated Apr 11, 2023 | 2:15 PM

Amul's teaser advertisement on sale of milk and curd on e-commerce portal in Bengaluru

“The Taste of India” has triggered a bitter war of words in poll-bound Karnataka.

The ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress and JD(S) have taken up cudgels over Anand Milk Union Limited (Amul)’s decision to enter the southern state’s dairy market.

While the BJP accused the Congress of launching a “misinformation campaign” over Amul seeking a slice of Karnataka’s dairy marker pie, the Opposition party questioned the current dispensation’s intentions in allowing the Anand, Gujarat-based cooperative to operate in Karnataka.

The narrative being offered is that Amul would eat into the profits of Nandini, the dairy brand belonging to the second-largest cooperative in the sector, the Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF).

Amul plans to market its products, especially milk and curd, through quick commerce platforms in Bengaluru.

Interestingly, the political parties locked horns even as firms and brands are looking at means to go glocal — seamless integration between global and local, reflecting both considerations.

Related: At its core, Amul-Nandini row is about undermining federalism

Hashtag campaign against Amul

Amul’s foray into markets in other states is not new. Founded on 14 December, 1946, under the ownership of Gujarat Milk Marketing Federation Limited with just a handful of farmers producing 250 litres of milk a day, Amul has grown into a dairy behemoth over the years.

Amul's teaser on a market launch in Bengaluru for sale of milk and curd in retail

Amul’s teaser on a market launch in Bengaluru for sale of milk and curd in retail

Aggressive marketing — with Eustace Fernandes-created Amul baby as its mascot — helped the Gujarat-based cooperative to become a household name across the country, even in places where its products are not available.

Its decision to enter Karnataka just ahead of the 10 May Assembly polls sparked hashtag campaigns #GoBackAmul and #SaveNandini on social media.

The opposition to its entry is not as taaza (fresh) as Amul would like it to be. The controversy has created a curdling effect.

The social media campaign started soon after Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced in Mandya that Amul should go ahead in cooperation.

The hashtag campaign became a toolkit for the Congress and the JD(S) to take on the ruling BJP.

“For the local BJP leaders, doing what Amit Shah wants is more important than the livelihood of 26 lakh dairy farmers,” Congress leader and former general secretary of the Youth Congress Srivatsa YB thundered.

“We all know what happened to Vijaya Bank, which was also the pride of Karnataka. A loss-making Bank of Baroda took over Vijaya Bank, which was profitable! Does a loss-making bank ever take over a profit-making one,” he asked.

Related: Amit Shah wants Amul, KMF to cooperate; netizens see red

Nandini will not be affected

The Congress leader also shot a few questions at the BJP:

“1. Why is Nandini not being asked to sell in Gujarat?
2. Why Amul is taking on the 2nd largest cooperative Nandini when there is an unwritten rule not to compete against other cooperatives?
3. Why not focus on the fight against private dairy companies in other states? All this is part of BJP’s ‘One Nation, One Cooperative’ plan. Nandini is their obvious and first target,” Srivatsa pointed out.

The BJP, meanwhile, dismissed the opposition to Amul as merely political.

“KMF is a federation that supplies surplus milk and allied products to Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh,” Minister for Cooperation ST Somashekar told South First.

“There is nothing wrong in Amul selling its milk and curd online in the city. If KMF wants, they can also sell Nandini online in other states. They (Amul) are selling it for ₹52 per litre whereas KMF’s Nandini milk is being sold at ₹39 per litre. How can Amul affect KMF’s Nandini’s milk and curd market,” he asked.

The minister further explained that Nandini has a strong market base.

“The Karnataka Milk Federation is a deep-rooted and well-established cooperative in the state which is supported by the state. It has been allowed to open more than 10,000 Nandini parlours throughout the state and the federation has been promoting not only milk and curd, but other products such as Mysore Pak, Peda, and also flavoured milk packets,” he said.

“There will be no effect and it is impossible for Amul to eat into KMF’s Nandini’s market as the state has been inaugurating mega-dairies one after the other,” Somashekar said.

“There is a mega-dairy coming up in Mandya, one was inaugurated in Haveri recently, another mega-dairy is coming up in Ballari and land for the Chikkaballapur mega-dairy, which is stuck in a legal hurdle, will be cleared soon. If all goes well, KMF’s milk procurement will touch 1 crore litres per day,” he added.

Congress spreading canards

On Sunday, 9 April, the BJP accused the Congress of unleashing a misinformation campaign over dairy cooperative Amul’s entry in Karnataka.

The ruling party asserted that it has done much more than the opposition to strengthen the Karnataka Milk Federation and its Nandini brand of products.

“Amul is NOT entering Karnataka. Both Amul and KMF sell their products across quick-commerce platforms. KMF’s turnover went up by (₹)10,000 crore after BJP came to power in 2019,” BJP IT Wing head Amit Malviya tweeted.

“In 2022, (Nandini’s) turnover stood at (₹)25,000 crore, of which (₹)20,000 crore went back to the farmers,” the tweet further said.

His tweets came after Congress leader Siddaramaiah had taken a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi. With Modi visiting the state on Sunday, the former Karnataka chief minister asked if his trip was “to loot the state”.

“It was Gujarat’s Bank of Baroda that subsumed our Vijaya Bank. Ports and Airports were handed over to Gujarat’s Adani. Now, Amul from Gujarat is planning to devour our KMF (Nandini). Mr Narendra Modi, are we enemies for Gujaratis,” he quipped.

Taking to Twitter, the Congress made another allegation.

Related: Question of federalism and efforts to undermine it

No merger plans

Responding to the Congress’s tweet, Malviya said Amul and Nandini were not merging.

KRV activists protest against Amul in Bengaluru. (Supplied)

Kannada Rakshana Vedike activists protesting against Amul in Bengaluru. (Supplied)

“The BJP has done much more to strengthen KMF and make Nandini a global brand. KMF is the nation’s second-largest milk cooperative and has depots in Maharashtra, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu,” he said.

“Fifteen percent of KMF’s total sales are outside Karnataka. Nandini products are being exported to Singapore, the UAE and many other countries. Amul and KMF are NOT merging,” he asserted.

Meanwhile, the Kannada Rakshana Vedike (KRV) activists, on Monday, 10 April, staged a protest at the Mysore Bank Circle in Bengaluru against the marketing of Amul milk and curd in Karnataka.

They also protested against the central government’s push to “merge” Nandini with Amul.

KRV activists threw Amul products, milk, curd, ghee, butter, and cheese, on the street and warned that Amul would not be allowed in the state.

“We have credible information that the central government is aiming at corporatising the state milk federations. And the first step of such a cunning plan is allowing Amul to sell milk and curd in retail to Kannadigas,” KRV president TA Narayana Gowda said.

“This would gradually affect around 26 lakh dairy farmers in the state,  jeopardising their livelihood and they would end up selling milk at a price that the corporate would decide later. We cannot allow this to happen,” he added.

“We organised a small-scale protest at each district in the state on Monday, and if Amul still chooses to sell its milk and curd in the state, then we will be forced to take out Amul milk and allied products from the shop shelves and throw it on streets,” Gowda told South First.

Related: Amul announces entry into Bengaluru, farmers worry for Nandini

‘Playing with Kannadiga sentiments’

KRV state vice-president DP Anjanappa said Amul is playing with the sentiments of Kannadigas. KMF (Nandini) is a proud Kannadiga organisation. He said that no one will be allowed to destroy it.

Member of Lok Sabha DK Suresh on Amul Vs Nandini in K'taka

Member of Lok Sabha DK Suresh said the BJP is trying to sink Nandini. (Supplied)

The central government is trying to merge Nandini with Amul. He warned that if it happens, the people of Karnataka will revolt.

State president of KRV’s youth wing TA Dharmaraj Gowda said that if Amul continues its stubborn stand and sells milk and curd here, all Amul products will be boycotted in Karnataka.

From ice cream to chocolates and biscuits, Amul would not sell any of their product here, he said, while demanding an immediate to stop the Gujarat-based cooperative selling milk and curd in Bengaluru.

The KRV activists later attempted to burn Amul in effigy, However, since there was no permission granted, the police stopped them.

A few activists were taken into preventive custody.

“Karnataka’s farmers understand the BJP’s gameplan and hence, are protesting. This issue during elections will hit the BJP big time and ensure its loss in 60-70 seats where KMF is strong,” Congress leader Srivatsa YB tweeted.

“The BJP’s 40 percent commission government has committed a political harakiri by trying to destroy lakhs of livelihoods and hurting Karnataka’s pride,” he added.

Member of Lok Sabha DK Suresh, on Monday, said that the BJP is trying to sink Karnataka’s pride, Nandini. The move, he said is to divert the public’s attention from real issues.

Meanwhile, the Bangalore Milk Union Limited (BAMUL), a part of the KMF, said milk production has come down in the state due to the onset of summer.

However, the Karnataka State Hotels’ Association (KSHA) alleged that an “artificial scarcity” of Nandini products has been created to “favour” Amul in Karnataka.