Stung by a very strong response from the Catholic Church to its liquor policy, the Kerala government on Sunday made it clear that they are open to any sort of discussion on it to make their stand clear.
Talking to media persons in Kozhikode, state Excise Minister T.P.Ramakrishnan said that he is willing to speak to any person or organisations who have doubts about the new liquor policy.
Read: 'Kerala govt reopening all bars that were closedâ€™: Church objects to new liquor policy
"We are going forward on the liquor policy that we spelled out in our manifesto. We assure all that we will not open a single new bar, liquor vend or toddy shop. All what we did was to follow the Supreme Court's directives, which we are bound to do.
"No one need to have any concern and our policy on liquor is to follow the policy of abstinence and not head towards prohibition... that's what we have said in our election manifesto," he said.
On Saturday, heads of various churches attached to the Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference (KCBC) slammed the Left Democratic Front government's liquor policy, threatening it would work against its candidate in the upcoming Chengannur by-poll.
Various Church leaders accused the Vijayan government is operating on sly to open new liquor vends, bars and toddy shops, riding on court verdicts.
In 2016, when the Oommen Chandy-led Congress government demitted office, there were two dozen bars that operated in five-star hotels, while around 700 bars in the three- and four-star hotels were shut down.
Chandy's policy envisaged prohibition in Kerala by 2023.
In the Vijayan government's tenure so far, under Supreme Court directives, there are close to 200 outlets, including four-star hotel bars and wine and beer parlours open in the state.
"We assure all that not a single new one would be opened and whatever is going to be opened are those which were open before. We will not dilute our policy in any manner and we are prepared to discuss with anyone on this," said Ramakrishnan.
The state government's offer for dialogue came, as along with the KCBC, both the Congress and the BJP began attacking the the Left government ahead of the Chengannur assembly by-election, winning which is a prestige issue for the government.