Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president V.M. Sudheeran and Chief Minister Oommen Chandy failed to narrow down their differences on the liquor bar licence renewal issue at a meeting held at Indira Bhavan on Wednesday, but the two leaders, in the presence of Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala, in his role as a mediator, agreed to scale up the conciliatory dialogues to the UDF level by involving leaders of constituent parties in the decision-making process.

The dialogues with UDF leaders would be initiated at the earliest, with Mr. Sudheeran, Mr. Chandy and Mr. Chennithala participating in these exercises so that a perspective could be evolved by the time the next meeting of the coalition high power committee is held on May 20.

The UDF leaders’ meetings, the first one which is expected to materialise on May 7, will give the coalition leadership some more time to discuss the legal issues that the government is likely to get entangled, mainly on account of the decision of the previous LDF government to regularise the controversial 418 bars in 2007 and 2010.

The Congress leaders, it seems, have sought to go slow on the licence renewal and wait for the outcome of the Lok Sabha elections before firming up their respective positions. The only consolation from today’s meeting was the emerging confrontation between Mr. Chandy and Mr. Sudheeran appeared to have been diffused a bit, with the two prepared to see the other’s view point to begin with.

This was clear by the sugar coated words Mr. Sudheeran used to describe Mr. Chandy’s stand on the liquor issue. Talking to newsmen soon after the meeting, Mr. Sudheeran said the chances for arriving at a fair settlement had further improved.

The High Court verdict in this direction makes it clear that there are no legal hurdles. “The Chief Minister’s stand on the liquor policy, including the willingness to forego revenue from liquor and compressing the availability of the brew, was praiseworthy. The 2011 liquor policy formulated by his government upheld the very essence of the UDF’s perspectives,” he said.

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