The BJP, which was accused by the Congress of threatening the local Nandini dairy brand by allowing the entry of Amul in Karnataka ahead of the assembly polls, is now attempting to turn the tables.
BJP state president Nalinkumar Kateel has accused the Congress of stopping the supply of Nandini ghee to the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) because of its “indifference towards Hindu beliefs and devotion”. The TTD issues a tender for ghee to make the world-famous Tirupati laddoos, which are given to devotees as ‘prasad’ (offering).
Party leader C T Ravi has also claimed that the state government increasing the price of Nandini milk made the Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF), which owns the brand, uncompetitive in the bid process.
Karnataka chief Minister Siddaramaiah has, however, said that the supply of Nandini ghee to the TTD has not happened for the past year-and-a-half and asked Mr Kateel whether the BJP, which was in power at the time, is “anti-Hindu devotion”.
The chief minister’s claim was confirmed by KMF officials, who said that the last time Nandini ghee was supplied to the temple in Andhra Pradesh was in 2021. They also said that the last tender process was held in March this year, when the BJP was in power.
In a tweet yesterday, Mr Kateel had quoted a media report and accused the Congress government of stopping supply of ghee from KMF for Tirupati laddoos.
“Nandini ghee supply for Tirupati laddoos has been stopped due to @INCKarnataka policy of indifference towards temple, and Hindu beliefs and devotion. 50 years of legacy with Tirupati is watered down and this proves @siddaramaiah’s policy of indifference towards Hindus,” the tweet said.
Last week, the Karnataka cabinet had allowed KMF to increase the price of Nandini milk by Rs 3 a litre, with effect from August 1. BJP leader CT Ravi said this made it impossible for Nandini to supply milk to TTD at the earlier price.
“The Congress shamelessly politicised Nandini issue during the assembly elections and milked it to malign Amul… Thanks to the incompetent Congress government, Nandini will no longer supply ghee to prepare the famous Tirupati laddoos. It is very evident that Congress is bent on destroying Suvarna Karnataka to pursue its agenda,” Mr Ravi tweeted.
Hitting out at the BJP, the chief minister tweeted, “The supply of Nandini ghee to Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh has not been stopped today or yesterday. The supply of ghee to Tirupati was suspended one-and-a-half years ago, during the @BJP4Karnataka government’s tenure.”
“Honorable Member of Parliament @nalinkateel, tell me now, was the previous BJP government against Hindu religious beliefs and devotion? Or was only the then Chief Minister @BSBommai (Basavaraj Bommai) anti-Hindu,” Mr Siddaramaiah asked.
“The life of the dairy farmers is important to us along with the religious faith of the people. Therefore, if the Tirupati temple agrees to give the price we ask for, in the interest of the state’s farmers, we have no problem in supplying ghee,” he added.
KMF chairperson Bheema Nayak has said the Nandini brand is known for its quality and cannot compromise on the price. He said the organisation had, thus, opted out of the tender process.
Senior KMF officials said the tender process happens every six months and was last held in March this year. They added that a price increase in August would not affect the tendering process in March.
The officials said KMF began supplying Nandini Ghee to the TTD in 2005 and the last time its bid was partially successful was in 2021, when it got 35% of the supply contract after negotiations. “A bid was made in 2022, but it was not successful. We did not bid in 2023,” a senior official said.
The Chief Executive Officer of TTD, Dharma Reddy, said KMF had not participated in the last auction in March 2023. He also said all items, including ghee for laddoos, are bought through e-tenders and the lowest bidder is given the contract, provided the materials they supply conform to quality parameters set by the TTD.
In April, a month before the Assembly polls in Karnataka, Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) had said the Nandini brand would be threatened if Amul entered the state market. The parties had accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah of “looting” Karnataka.
The BJP had claimed the Congress was running a “misinformation campaign” and asserted that it has done far more than the opposition party to strengthen the KMF.
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