UDF loses moral ground on liquor policy


Bribery charges against Finance Minister

The United Democratic Front and the government it leads have lost the moral high ground on which the new liquor policy has been placed consequent to the bribery charges against Finance Minister K.M. Mani, one of its senior leaders.

The initial hesitation in taking a firm stance on closing down substandard bars had led to a lot of suspicion, virtually pitting Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president V.M. Sudheeran on diametrically opposite camps on the question of renewing liquor bar licences.

Tremors in Congress

The tremors were mostly felt in the Congress since it was handling the Excise portfolio.

The majority of UDF constituents took the stance that the onus was on the Congress to sort out its differences prior to formulating a valid liquor policy.

The Chief Minister at one point even took strong exception at Mr. Sudheeran’s attempts to depict him and several others as purveyors of the liquor lobby.

It was an exasperated Chief Minister who finally popped a liquor policy on the political establishment that left several leaders speechless, at least for the severity with which it was formulated.

Mr. Chandy’s liquor policy outdid what Mr. Sudheeran had envisioned.

Liquor trade reeling

The impact of the closure of all the 712 liquor bars, not to mention curbs on the availability of liquor through dismantling a certain percentage of outlets of Bevco and additional dry days, including Sundays, had left the liquor trade reeling.

Mr. Chandy recaptured the moral ground that appeared to be eroding by announcing the stringent liquor policy.

Such was the policy perspectives that even the CPI(M) had to take action against some of its local office-bearers for daring to question the closure of Bevco outlets as part of the policy.

Given this background, the bribery charges virtually knocked the UDF off its high pedestal.

The charges were a personal setback for Mr. Mani who had never come under such a scanner during the 50 years as a legislator, Minister, and party leader unparalleled.

With hardly less than two years left for the next round of Assembly elections, Mr. Chandy will have to work out a special plan as fast as possible to save his government from its creeping paralysis.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 10:46:18 PM |

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