A recent GST notice sent to Vaijanath Sugar Mill, owned by prominent Maharashtra politician Pankaja Munde, has ignited a political controversy in the state. Expressing her discontent with the situation, Munde pointed out that while all other sugar mills in the state have received assistance from the central government, Vaijanath stands as an exception. The opposition has seized upon the issue, with MPCC Chief Nana Patole alleging partisan behavior by government agencies.
State BJP Chief Chandrashekar Bawankule, on the other hand, attempted to play down the situation, stating that such notices are standard administrative matters. He emphasized that if no wrongdoing is involved, the appropriate response should be to provide a satisfactory explanation to have the notices withdrawn.
The controversy stems from a GST department raid conducted at Vaijanath Cooperative Sugar Mill approximately six months ago. Documents obtained during the raid revealed that the mill had not paid GST worth Rs. 19 crore. Additionally, the mill had borrowed a substantial amount of Rs. 1,200 crore from Union Bank, which had initiated proceedings to attach the property due to the unpaid loan.
As a result, the mill has been sealed by the bank, and the GST department subsequently issued the notice. Pankaja Munde, while addressing the media during her visit to Pune, raised the issue and defended her position.
Munde stated, “The mill had incurred significant losses due to droughts for nearly 7-8 years. The bank has seized it and is in the process of liquidation. The figures being cited are inflated, and no wrongdoing has occurred. These figures primarily pertain to interest payments.”
She further explained, “During the drought period, we ensured that all dues to farmers were paid. This created a situation the following year where we had insufficient funds to operate. The combination of drought and financial constraints led to this predicament. Several other mills faced similar challenges. They all sought assistance from the central government, and everyone except me received some form of support. Had I also received help, today’s situation might have been averted,” squarely placing blame on the Central government.
Responding to questions about her political standing within the BJP, she asserted, “I am not so insignificant that I can be easily sidelined.”
Pankaja Munde also underscored the broader impact of the situation, emphasizing that it’s not just about who operates the mill but also about the well-being of the local community and the regional economy. She had previously suggested that the government could operate 1,000 such units to support a substantial population but chose not to elaborate on the outcome of her proposal.