PATNA: Standing at the crossroads over the contentious prohibition law, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday gave a patient hearing to the views of leaders of all political parties in the state, but refrained from making any statement on the issue.
In a unusual gesture, Kumar chose not to speak to the media when the all-party meeting he had convened ended. “The parliamentary affairs minister would speak on this,” he said before walking ahead, giving the impression of what analysts termed as a “perplexed” chief minister weighing the options before himself.
Significantly, the all-party meeting was held a day after the three-party alliance government Kumar heads had released its annual performance report, which shows the government taking special pride for implementing the total prohibition law.
Parliamentary affairs minister Sharavan Kumar said the meeting resulted in gathering of several “useful” opinions on the prohibition issue. “The government would consider all these opinions before reaching any decision,” he added.
But deputy chief minister Tejaswi Yadav betrayed the government’s continuing stand when he spoke to journalists after the meeting. “The Opposition parties are complaining aloud by citing mainly the troubles caused to the people by the liquor ban. The people are also facing so many troubles caused by the ban on two currency notes. They (NDA government) did not convene an all-party meeting, but we did because we want that this (liquor ban) should be implemented with all parties in agreement,” he said.
The main Opposition BJP said Kumar convened the meeting due to “fear” about the Supreme Court’s scrutiny of the “draconian provisions” in the prohibition law implemented in Bihar seven months ago. “Earlier, when this law was being debated, we had offered the same suggestions that we did again today. But this government does not heed to voices in the Opposition,” said BJP state president Mangal Pandey.
CPI (M-L) leader Sudama Prasad said liquor keeps being freely available in Bihar despite the ban and that a nexus of police officials and traders is making quick bucks due to the government’s negligence. “The government should pay attention to other more important issues in the state that hardly get discussed,” said the leftist legislator.