The Congress party in Kerala on Thursday alleged the Pinarayi Vijayan government was in cahoots with the liquor lobby and planning to reopen closed down liquor shops on two national highways. The party said it will call a meeting of UDF allies on June 9 to decide on steps to counter the move.
Leader of Opposition, Ramesh Chennithala, told the media in Thiruvananthapuram that this must be seen from two aspects.
"The general secretary of the CPI-M, Sitaram Yechury, as part of his election campaign in April last year had assured the people here that not a single closed down bar would be opened if their party comes to power. But yesterday (Wednesday) after the Kerala High Court asked the excise department to consider the demand of bar hotels situated along the Cherthala-Thiruvananthapuram and Kannur-Kuttipuram national highways to continue operations as these roads were de-notified as highways prior to the Supreme Court order on liquor outlets along highways, the Vijayan government has been silent and is riding on technicalities. They should appeal against this order in the apex court," said Chennithala.
He said the Vijayan government is all set to allow the closed down liquor outlets on these two national highways to open even before the new liquor policy is unveiled.
"This policy of ours was upheld by the apex court, and the Bihar government took a leaf out of this policy and introduced total prohibition there. Not a single political party, organisation or anybody has asked for opening closed down bars. The only people who have demanded this is the liquor lobby.
"We allege that this new development smells of corruption. We the UDF are meeting on 9th of this month to work out what needs to be done, which includes even seeking legal recourse should the closed down bars be allowed to open," said Chennithala.
State Excise Minister T.P. Ramakrishnan has announced that the new liquor policy would be unveiled this month.
During the Oommen Chandy government in 2015, the state government closed down around 700 bars, except two dozen bars that operated in five-star or more rated hotels.