The ruling UDF has promised total prohibition of alcohol within 10 years if voted back to power As campaigning intensifies in Kerala, which goes to vote on May 16, the state’s liquor policy introduced by the incumbent UPA government is one of the major talking points. Kerala, as many know, is one of the top states in the country with high consumption of country-made and foreign liquor.
The present government led by Congress leader Oommen Chandy has advocated a stringent liquor policy promising total prohibition of alcohol in the state within 10 years if voted back to power. More than 700 bars serving foreign liquor have already been shut down in the last two years of the implementation of the policy. At the moment, only five star bars can serve alcohol.
The UDF’s manifesto also says that it will deny license to those bars which are trying to misuse the policy by adopting a five-star grade. This point was reportedly introduced in the manifesto to counter opposition claims that the government is selling more licenses to bars and thus indirectly not helping the cause of prohibition.
Let’s now look where the opposition parties stand on the liquor policy.
LDF stand
There have been a series of flip flops on the part of the LDF on the contentious liquor policy. At one point, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, the CPM general secretary, said not a single additional drop of liquor would be made available if the Left front alliance is voted to power.
The alliance finally made it clear that liquor abstinence was the way to go, instead of total prohibition. The CPI(M)-led front said it would increase the drinking age to 23 years and that awareness about the consumption of liquor would be introduced in the school curriculum. The current drinking age in the state is 21.
A phase-wise or gradual reduction in the availability of liquor was its policy, the manifesto indicated. A mass people’s campaign programme would be initiated to spread awareness of the ill-effects of consuming liquor, the manifesto said.
Left leaders alleged that the flow of illicit liquor into the state has increased after the policy came into effect and that the UDF government was not serious about imposing total prohibition.
NDA stand
In an interview to Manorama, BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan disapproved of the UDF policy of imposing total prohibition, saying it is bound to fail. He said the BJP stood for ‘bringing down consumption levels in a phased-manner’ — basically echoing the LDF stand.
In a reflection of that interview, the BJP’s vision document released in the presence of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley stated that the party would go for a phase-wise reduction of alcohol in the state.
As a first step, the party will ensure that the limit of alcohol that can be bought from beverage outlets would be reduced to 250 ml. In a phased manner, the number of outlets and bars will be brought down. Licenses to new bars would not be given, the party promised.