BHOPAL: Prompted by women protesting against liquor vends in residential localities across the State, Abhishek Bhargava, son of powerful Madhya Pradesh panchayat and rural development minister Gopal Bhargava has sought total prohibition of liquor in the State.
The 33-year-old MBA from Dr HS Gaur University, Sagar, has also announced constituting an anti-sharab dal (anti-liquor squad) comprising of women and youth who would launch a movement against liquor vends in residential areas.
He will carry a padyatra across his father’s assembly constituency Rehli (Sagar), in support of total alcohol prohibition after the ongoing Navratra ends.
“If the movement is successful in Rehli, it would spread all across Sagar district,” said Abhishek.
“Over the last few days, violent protests by people, particularly women have been reported from different districts, including Sagar, Chhattarpur, Satna, Betul and Indore. The violent protest by women in Rond village in my native town of Garhakota in Sagar district has prompted me to urge our popular CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan to go for a total prohibition of liquor in the State,” Abhishek told The New Indian Express.
Abhishek Bhargava, who is also the State Bhartiya Janta Yuva Morcha (BJP’s youth wing) vice president, made a detailed post on his Facebook page on Monday, where he appealed to the CM for a total liquor ban. He also wrote that liquor was being illegally sold in Madhya Pradesh in collusion with government machinery.
“There is no politics in it, as every politician should understand the popular mood in society and work accordingly as a social activist first. The public mood is for a liquor ban in the State,” Abhishek said
While Abhishek’s father, Madhya Pradesh minister for Panchayat and Rural development Gopal Bhargava couldn’t be contacted to comment on his son’s call , despite repeated attempts, State BJP spokesperson Deepak Vijayvargiya said “BJP is in favour of a peaceful society and also wants the end of liquor culture. But there are certain practical issues involved with total liquor prohibition which have surfaced already in other States where total liquor prohibition has been put in place.”
Though the ruling BJP adopted a guarded response over Abhishek’s call, the opposition Congress welcomed it.
“We appreciate and welcome Abhishek’s social media post and call for a total liquor ban in MP. But how will it be possible when there have been instances where vehicles sell liquor in areas close to Bhopal in the wake of closure of liquor vends near National highways post the Supreme Court order,” said State Congress spokesperson KK Mishra.
There are currently around 3,600 licensed liquor vends in the State through which the Excise department earned a revenue of Rs 5,750 crores in 2016-17. The State Excise Department, which is likely to lose Rs 118 crore due to closure of shops in the vicinity of the river Narmada, announced by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, hopes to earn Rs 6,300 crores through licensed liquor vends in 2017-18.
The Congress is planning to launch a State-wide movement for liquor prohibition, pre-empting that Shivraj Singh Chouhan might announce it in the next State budget. Abhishek’s call for for prohibition is being seen by political watchers as a calculated move by his father Gopal Bhargava to tackle the rising political clout of home minister Bhupendra Singh in Sagar district.
In September 2016, a court in Raisen district had issued an arrest warrant against Abhishek Bhargav in a chit fund fraud case, but later granted him bail.
In 2008, Abhishek was arrested along with supporters for taking out a jail bharo padyatra over allegations that he had beaten up Congress leader Bhagvan Singh.
In April 2015, Abhishek had again hogged headlines, when he and his sister Avantika tied the knot with their respective partners at a mass wedding of 1,350 couples of different castes in their hometown of Garhakota, in Sagar district.