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Liquor policy triggers friction in Kerala Congress

Congress led UDF government’s decision in Kerala to dilute its liquor policy has triggered friction between Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and KPCC President V M Sudheeran with both sticking to their declared positions.

A few days ago the government had made some “practical changes” in the liquor policy considering the plight of job loss of workers in bars and adverse impact on tourism sector, without altering its fundamentals.

Though Chandy maintained that only certain “practical changes” has been brought, Sudheeran termed the changes as “virtual sabotage of the policy which got support from all sections in the soceity”.

Reiterating his opposition to changes, Sudheeran had said that he had only expressed people’s sentiment and it should not be seen as an act to weaken the government.

Congress leaders close to Chandy took exception to Sudheeran’s outburst against the government and opined that it would only weaken the government.

Congress spokesman M M Hassan openly said that Sudheeran’s remark had hurt the sentiments of party workers.

The government had in August announced a new liquor policy, aimed at reducing the availability of liqour and bring total prohibition in a phased manner by closing down the bars and liquor outlets, was widely seen as an outcome of the pressure from Sudheeran.

Ever since he took over as KPCC chief earlier this year, Sudheeran had spearheaded an anti-liquor campaign and was adamant that the 418 bars closed in the state due to poor quality should not be reopened.

Under pressure from various quarters and overruling Sudheeran’s objection, government diluted its policy on December 18 by deciding to allow beer and wine parlours in the 418 closed bars and lift the resolve to declare Sundays as dry day.

Liquor policy has been a main topic of discussion in the state ever since its annoucement and as a fall-out, a bar owner levelled corruption charges against Finace Minister K M Mani, which embarassed the government.

Party sources said that a meeting of Congress MLAs has been planned for tomorrow to discuss the new developments.

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