Tamil Nadu

When Rajaji pleaded against lifting prohibition

Rajaji meets Tami Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi at the latter’s residence in Chennai on July 20, 1971, to plead against lifting prohibition. Prohibition was suspended on August 30 that year.   | Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

When DMK president M. Karunanidhi proclaimed that his party will implement total prohibition if voted to power, many considered it a ‘U’ turn in his policy towards liquor.

The developments of July-August 1971, when the State first allowed suspended prohibition, were also recalled by many, including PMK founder S. Ramadoss, who hit out at the DMK chief’s new stand as an election gimmick.

In 1971, Tamil Nadu occupied a peculiar position as one of the two States (the other being Gujarat) where prohibition was still in force. Mr. Karunanidhi as Chief Minister decided to lift it, making an argument of economics.

He said he was for enforcement of prohibition across country. But in a situation where this was not possible, States implementing this policy should be compensated for loss of revenue. In the absence of such compensation, there was no option but to introduce liquor sales.

The decision was put through the DMK’s general council, which ratified it. But the government faced stiff opposition, especially by the Congress and the Swatantra Party of C. Rajagopalachari, who first introduced prohibition in Salem in 1937.

On a rainy Tuesday evening on July 20, 1971, Rajaji, with an umbrella in hand, met Mr. Karunanidhi at his residence and pleaded against lifting prohibition, which he, according to Congressmen, believed would hurt future generations adversely. The Hindu reported that the meeting took place for 20 minutes and both leaders were silent about the talks to the press.

In the week that followed, the DMK government was accused of “trampling” the “avowed wishes” of party founder C.N. Annadurai, who had steadfastly supported the policy through his life. In response, the Chief Minister said Congress-ruled States across India had relaxed prohibition. “Does it mean they have all given up the Gandhian ideology or forgotten Gandhiji,” he asked in the Assembly.

When Congress stalwart K. Kamaraj termed the DMK a “fascist party” for the decision, Mr. Karunanidhi wondered why the former Chief Minister did not oppose lifting of prohibition in Mysore and Andhra.

Black day

The Tamil Nadu Prohibition Action Council declared August 30, the day of suspending prohibition, as black day. The Congress and Swatantra Party decided to picket toddy shops.

Ironically, MGR went on to allow sale of liquor when he took over as Chief Minister at a later point.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 11:26:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/when-rajaji-pleaded-against-lifting-prohibition/article7450843.ece

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