THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was at his artful best on Friday parrying Opposition Leader V S Achuthanandan’s “political gimmick’’ response to Thursday’s liquor policy decision, remaining mum on the future of church wine and giving a ‘’you decide’’ reply to the ‘who gets the credit?’ question.
Chandy also claimed that he had been at the forefront of the anti-liquor movement from his younger days in the Congress. “We are approving the liquor policy today itself (Friday). Is that a political gimmick?’’ Chandy said, addressing a press conference on Friday morning.
To a question why he had abruptly changed his mind after advocating “a practical approach’’ to the bar issue for weeks, Chandy said he had doubted whether the society was ready for a liquor ban. “I had doubts. I expressed my doubts. But when all the UDF constituents were for it, as well as sections of society, I concluded that the time was ripe for a ban in a phased manner,’’ he said. ‘’I’m an open book. Nothing is a secret.’’ Switching to reminiscence mode, he said he had always been at the forefront of liquor-related issues of the UDF. He had been part of the UDF committee of 1985 that recommended liquor ban in a phased manner and the closure of sub-toddy shops.
‘’It was on the basis of this committee’s report in 1985 that the Udayabhanu Commission was appointed,’’ he said. Chandy initially remained mum on whether the production of sacramental wine used in churches would also be banned. When reporters pressed with the argument that wine contained 12 per cent alcohol while beer had only eight, he replied with a curt ‘’We will talk about current issues.’’
Chandy said he did not agree with two of the objections to prohibition - that it would hit the tourism industry and it’s financial implications to the state exchequer. The third argument that such a ban would end in liquor tragedies has to be pondered over with all seriousness, he said.
As to who gets the credit for Thursday’s UDF decision, Chandy said: ‘’You decide.’’