From Tuesday, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will hit the streets to mobilise public opinion against the Delhi Government’s new excise policy. A public gathering involving individuals from civil society and citizens’ groups — either at Rajghat or Jantar Mantar — is part of the party’s ongoing movement against the opening of new liquor vends in the Capital.
With Delhi’s three municipal corporations – North, South and East – coming down heavily on the opening of liquor vends, under the city’s new excise policy, at residential and mixed land areas, Mayors of the South and East civic bodies said that the ongoing surveys of the liquor vends “will be further intensified” in the coming days.
While the BJP’s campaign against the new excise policy is not recent, party sources said fuelling citizens’ opposition to the opening of new liquor vends had emerged as a significant strategy to counter AAP’s bid to wrest control of the city’s three civic bodies with municipal elections around the corner.
“There is evidently a lot of public anger against new liquor vends springing up in the city. Not only have our leaders got representations from citizens, but also have learnt that AAP MLAs too have written against these shops to the Chief Minister,” a party source said.
“The party has decided to utilise the opportunity as part of its campaign for the municipal corporation elections so much so that a programme has been chalked out around it under Leader of Opposition in the Delhi Assembly Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, who is its convener,” the source added.
According to the Delhi Government’s new policy that came into effect on November 17, a total of 849 liquor vends – including five super-premium vends (SPV) – were to be opened. While the SPVs are yet to take shape, 810 of the remaining 844 vends fall under the corporation areas, which has led to a strong opposition from the BJP-led corporations and councillors from the Congress.
East Delhi Municipal Corporation Mayor Shyam Sunder Aggarwal said the civic body has issued “verification notices to 65 liquor vends” under its area of jurisdiction and that “three of these vends have been sealed”.
“These surveys are not limited to residential and mixed land areas. If we find discrepancies regarding the building by-laws and conversion charges in the commercial areas, those shops will also be sealed. The Delhi Government’s new excise policy is aimed at causing nuisance. We will seal the vends even if we find a minor violation,” said Mr. Aggarwal.
Responding to the notion of a larger survey to be conducted, after Delhi BJP president Adesh Gupta wrote a letter to the three civic body Mayors directing them to ensure that the newly opened vends do not violate norms, Mr. Aggarwal said that he had seen no development regarding this matter.
However, South Delhi Municipal Corporation Mayor Mukesh Suryan said that a larger survey with the assistance of workers from the Delhi BJP is set to commence on December 14.
Fund generating ploy
Mr. Bidhuri accused the Delhi Government of opening new liquor vends “illegally” under th e garb of making alcohol more accessible to citizens.
“There is a reason behind the fact that over 80 municipal wards did not have liquor shops — it was against multiple norms both in the Master Plan as well as several court orders,” Mr. Bidhuri said.
“AAP merely wants to generate funds for the Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Delhi civic body elections in the garb of making alcohol readings available through the policy,” he added.
Amendments to existing provisions under the Master Plan for Delhi (MPD) 2021, the LoP said, were necessary before allowing any new vends to open. These, however, were not put in place even as new liquor shops had begun springing up across the Capital, Mr. Bidhuri said.
“It is clearly mentioned in Section 15.6.2 of the MPD that liquor vends cannot open in mixed land areas. You cannot open them in residential areas as well, so this is a violation of the norms and the survey and verification of these vends is a necessary exercise,” said Mr. Suryan. Previously, Mr. Suryan said that the civic body had started conducting surveys “in full swing” from December 6 to verify completion certificates, licencing forms, building by-laws and conversion charges of the newly opened liquor stores.
B.K. Oberoi, SDMC’s Standing Committee Chairman and BJP leader, said “only one liquor vend has shut” under the south civic body’s jurisdiction and that most shop owners “are now refraining from opening their stores because of the surveys”.
“We are committed to ensuring that the liquor vends that violate the norms will be shut and the work is already in motion. However, I have no knowledge about the larger surveys that are to be held in sync with the BJP’s Delhi office,” Jogi Ram Jain, North civic body’s Standing Committee Chairman, said.