Cong attacks LDF amid row over excise policy | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Cong attacks LDF amid row over excise policy

By, Kochi
May 27, 2024 07:26 AM IST

The Opposition Congress in Kerala on Sunday mounted a fresh offensive on the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led state government in the ongoing row over bar bribery allegations, claiming that the administration has conducted multiple consultations regarding revisions in the state’s liquor policy

The Opposition Congress in Kerala on Sunday mounted a fresh offensive on the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led state government in the ongoing row over bar bribery allegations, claiming that the administration has conducted multiple consultations regarding revisions in the state’s liquor policy.

The Kerala Congress alleges that the state government has conducted multiple consultation regarding revisions in the liquor policy. (ANI)
The Kerala Congress alleges that the state government has conducted multiple consultation regarding revisions in the liquor policy. (ANI)

Speaking at a press conference in Paravur, Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the state assembly VD Satheesan alleged that the excise minister MB Rajesh and tourism minister PA Muhammad Riyas were lying that the government has not kickstarted any discussions on this year’s liquor policy or about any possible reviosions in it.

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“Over the last two months, there have been consultations regarding the liquor policy. At a meeting held in early April by the chief secretary, the tourism secretary was asked to submit a report on the changes in the policy. On May 21, the tourism department held a meeting online in which bar owners also participated. I have the link of that online meeting in which the discussion took place,” Satheesan said.

“In that meeting, discussions were held about abolition of dry days and extension of working hours of bars. It was subsequent to those discussions that a meeting was held in Ernakulam where a directive was given to bar owners to collect funds (to put pressure on the government to effect changes in the policy),” he further said.

The Congress leader asked why the tourism department was interfering in the job of the excise department in the formulation of the liquor policy. He also alleged that the investigation launched by the crime branch of the police was focused on how the “news” came out about soliciting of funds, and not on the actual source of corruption.

Last week, a WhatsApp audio recording of a prominent hotel association member leaked, in which he was heard asking other members to pool 2.5 lakh each to put pressure on the government and achieve a “favourable” liquor policy from them, gave rise to allegations of bribery of bar owners and sparked a political row in Kerala.

The controversy evoked similar allegations of bribery of bar owners which led to the resignations of two United Democratic Front (UDF) ministers in November 2015 and cast the then Oommen Chandy-led government in poor light.

After the allegations came to the surface, state excise minister Rajesh denied that the government has held any consultations on the formulation of this year’s liquor policy and directed the police to probe the complaint.

The complaint has been forwarded to the crime branch division which has started the probe into the matter.

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