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Stung by bar bribery charge, CM Vijayan unlikely to tweak liquor policy

IANS | May 25, 2024 12:22 PM

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With the opposition demanding the resignation of Excise Minister M.P. Rajesh in view of the audio clip asking bar owners to pay Rs 2.50 lakh each for 'favourable liquor policies', the Pinarayi Vijayan government is unlikely to tweak the existing policy.

State CPI(M) secretary M.V. Govindan denied any change in the policy. He said, "When there is no news, the news gets created and this is what has happened. The state government has already clarified that no decision has been taken, why all this noise then."

However, after a political uproar on the issue, Minister Rajesh wrote to the state police chief to probe the audio clip and register the case.

The case will be filed against Animon, the president of the Idukki Federation of Kerala Hotel Association, who is also the vice president of the apex body of bar hotel owners. It was his audio clip that went viral.

Generally, the annual liquor policy comes into effect from April 1 but this time as the model code of conduct for the Lok Sabha polls is in force, it was deferred.

A few of the relaxations, which were said to be included in the new liquor policy, are lifting of dry days (i.e., the first of every calendar month), and extending the timings for liquor sales at stores and bars.

After the controversy surfaced, the president of the majority bar owners in the state, Sunil Kumar categorically denied any drive to collect funds to be given for formulating a favourable liquor policy. He said the bar owners had met to discuss buying a building in the state capital for their association.

But his denial fell flat after the agenda of the meeting had no mention of their building project, instead it was about the proposed liquor policy.

The Congress-led opposition is likely to pester over their demand for the resignation of Rajesh. The BJP leadership has said this is a similar version of the Delhi liquor policy, which saw top leaders like CM Arvind Kejriwal land in jail.

So with the government ordering the case, it will not be long before Animon is questioned.

In 2015 the then Excise Minister, K.M. Mani had to quit after an allegation surfaced that he had taken Rs one crore bribe from bar owners. And, in the latest case, the audio clip says the demand is Rs 2.5 lakh, which could add up to over Rs 20 crore.

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