A day before the reshuffle, Narendra Modi’s National Democratic Alliance government created a new Ministry of Cooperation.
It would provide, said its statement, a separate administrative, legal and policy framework for strengthening the cooperative movement in India.
A day later, it announced Union home minister Amit Shah would also head the new ministry.
Singly and together, these announcements have left most observers guessing. Cooperatives are a state subject. Each state has a registrar of cooperatives that oversees the sector. In addition, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) keeps an eye on cooperative banks.
Given this architecture, why is the Union government creating a new ministry?
The selection of Shah has added to the speculation. “I expected Purushottam Rupala or Mansukh Mandaviya to get this. Both are strong in rural politics,” said an observer of politics from Gujarat. “But we have Amit Shah.”
It’s important to understand what is going on. Cooperatives might be low-profile, not hitting headlines with anywhere the frequency unicorns do, but they are a large part of the economic scaffolding that supports rural India and the informal economy. We see them in production (sugar), credit (urban and rural cooperatives and cooperative banks), and in marketing (milk cooperatives).
And so, what is going on?