Bar Licence Renewal Issue: 'Jilted' Sudheeran Stumbling Block to Solution? - The New Indian Express

Bar Licence Renewal Issue: 'Jilted' Sudheeran Stumbling Block to Solution?

Published: 29th April 2014 08:53 AM

Last Updated: 29th April 2014 08:53 AM

Despite an outward display of  attempts to hold talks on the bar licence renewal issue following a deadlock, a feeling of ill-will which has gripped KPCC president V M Sudheeran that Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his trusted men in the cabinet had tried to corner him is standing in the way of arriving at any immediate settlement.

The main grouse of Sudheeran is that Chandy had not discussed the topic and what actually is the government plan, prior to the KPCC-government coordination committee meet, which had met exclusively to discuss the bar licence renewal issue last week. ‘’Instead, the Chief Minister and Excise Minister K Babu came up with a pre- conceived scheme to corner Sudheeran. He is indeed wounded over it,’’ said a confidante of Sudheeran to ‘Express’.

‘’Or else, how come media reports that the KPCC president was isolated and cornered at the meet?,’’ he asked.  But the Chief Minister vehemently denied it. ‘’It is not at all true,’’ Chandy told ‘Express’.

‘’The professed stand of Sudheeran on the abkari policy was clear. Hence it was only appropriate to engage in a free and fair discussion on the pros and cons of  the issue. I haven’t spoken in detail to even Babu ahead of it,’’ the Chief Minister claimed. ‘’Babu came to my office for discussions prior to the co-ordination committee meet but I was engaged at that time. He joined me in my official car while proceeding from the Secretariat to Indira Bhavan to attend the meet. We spoke on the topic in that short journey. The relevant portions of  the Supreme Court judgment was read out by Babu to me then only,’’ he said.

Chandy said that Sudheeran himself  had told the coordination committee meet that it seems that ‘’all have discussed earlier and came prepared’’. ‘’This was when views opposite to his stand were aired. Participants told him that no prior discussions were held. His doubts were cleared then itself,’’ the Chief Minister said.  All others except Sudheeran who had attended the meet had felt that it is not practical to keep closed such a vast number of  bars (418) in the substandard category. Chandy and Babu took the stand that the bar licenses of all should be renewed and necessary time should be given to upgrade facilities, which,was stoutly opposed by Sudheeran. The Chief Minister’s camp insisted on practical and legally binding measures, whereas Sudheeran adopted a moralistic, anti-liquor stand.

Though Home minister Ramesh Chennithala and a few Congress leaders are trying to bring in a compromise on the stand of  Chandy and Sudheeran on the issue, sources close to the latter indicated that it will be difficult for him to make a total climbdown from his professed stand at the cost of his  image. He is on record that only bars with valid two star classification certificate as well as prescribed facilities should be allowed to function.  The High Court single Bench observations and similar stand of IUML is abetting his line now.

‘’The practical proposal to close down really substandard bars and allow those non-certified ones which already have facilities, after subjecting them to a high-level inspection and setting a timeframe to avail two star classification certificates, has not found favour with Sudheeran so far,’’ Ramesh told Express.  As the bar licence renewal issue is snowballing and Sudheeran expected  to remain firm on basic issues, the Chief Minister is trying to leave it to the collective decision of the UDF as a policy matter. Such a move may  eventually draw the battle lines clear in Congress and UDF politics lying ahead.

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