Liquor policy row in Kerala: UDF demands resignation of excise, tourism ministers

MM Hassan
MM Hassan

Palakkad (Kerala) | The opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) on Saturday stepped up its attack against the Left government in the state over its liquor policy and demanded the resignation of Excise and Tourism ministers over alleged corruption in this regard.

The Congress-led front said a crime branch probe would not bring out the real truth behind the alleged graft to the tune of several crores in connection with the liquor policy and therefore a judicial probe should be carried out.

The demand came a day after reports of the state government mulling scrapping the 'dry day' norm (not selling alcohol in the state on the first day of every calendar month) with respect to alcohol sales had kicked off a political storm in the state.

While the UDF has accused the LDF dispensation of taking bribes to 'favour' bar owners, the Left claimed that it has not yet held any deliberations over its liquor policy.

Addressing mediapersons here, UDF Convenor M M Hassan said the reported crime branch probe, based on the complaint of Excise Minister M B Rajesh, would not bring out the "real truth".

He alleged that Rajesh directly lodged a complaint with the police with an intension to protect Tourism Minister P A Mohammed Riyas, who had influenced and pressurised for the changes in the liquor policy.

Mohammed Riyas is the son-in-law of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

"No one thinks that the tourism and excise ministers would give such an assurance to the bar owners (with regard to scrapping of dry day) without the knowledge and consent of Chief Minister Vijayan," Hassan charged.

He further alleged that it was Riyas who had demanded to scrap the "dry day" norm and the CM was also aware about it.

Raising similar charges against the government, senior Congress leader and former Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala demanded that the Excise Minister Rajesh should be removed from his position and a judicial probe by a sitting judge should be conducted into the allegations.

The "clear corruption" behind the move to change the liquor policy has been exposed now, he alleged.

The CPI (M)-led government's attempt was to open all the bars closed by the previous UDF regime and allot as much as new bars possible to increase the availability of liquor in the southern state, Chennithala alleged.

Earlier in the day, several Youth Congress activists took out a protest march to the office of Minister Rajesh in Palakkad alleging corruption in the LDF government's liquor policy.

The issue of withdrawal of the 'dry day' policy snowballed into a controversy after an audio clip purportedly of a bar association member allegedly asking other members to pay money for a 'favourable liquor policy', was aired on TV channels.

The Congress-led UDF opposition came out with allegations that the Left government sought Rs 20 crore from bar owners to make a policy favourable to them and demanded the resignation of Minister Rajesh.

Brushing aside the allegations and the demand of the opposition, Rajesh said that the state government has not yet held any deliberations regarding its liquor policy.

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