THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Prisoners of one’s own image left to rue for themselves on the fallout of the new abkari policy within the secure environs of the cabinet room. Many of the ministers who spoke loud in public and were keen to derive whatever mileage they could over the total closure of bars in the state were seemingly at a loss on the multi-dimensional fallout of a crucial decision, at the weekly cabinet meet held on Wednesday, when the approved UDF policy came up for ratification.
While ministers’ K M Mani and Shibu Baby John expressed resentment and apprehensions over the new policy, Excise Minister K Babu reminded that it was framed on the directives and decision of a UDF meeting and asked why all remained silent then. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy asserted that there will be no going back from the declared policy, thereby closing further discussions on the topic.
An unusual mood gripped the cabinet session, as majority of ministers felt that though it was true that a decision on the abkari policy was overdue, a panacea prescribed for it at last was in haste and not even well thought of, especially from the fiscal point of view for a cash- strapped state like Kerala.
Finance Minister K M Mani, who had made a volte face by preferring to open those bars with facilities in the closed list first and later plumped for a V M Sudheeran style no, no on re-opening of all in the category, however, didn’t hide his concern. “The decision will lead to heavy depletion in the state exchequer. It is poised to affect the payment of salaries and development works. None should call me as a minister who had given a dent in the state’s coffers,’’ Mani told his colleagues.
Labour Minister Shibu Baby John was in his usual candid style and termed the decision as impractical and reminded that the fallout remains to be seen. Admitting to ‘Express’ that he had taken a strong position since the implications of the policy cannot be taken lightly, Shibu said that the decision seems politically good for the government. “It is a conscious decision taken by the Chief Minister and Excise Minister. All ministers should now strive hard to make it practical’’,he said.
Industries Minister P K Kunhalikutty told the meet that IUML is steadfast to its stand on prohibition but always went by the decision of the UDF. “It could have been more practical’’,he felt. The Chief Minister agreed that the IUML was consistent in its stand.
Rural Development Minister K C Joseph, a key minister whom Chandy had relied upon other than Babu in the framing of the new policy catching all others in the cabinet, Congress party leadership and coalition partners by surprise, told ‘Express’ that double-talk is not good for political parties while taking decisions.
“One should own up a policy decision instead of remaining ambivalent. It is not good for anyone to pass on the buck to others either,’’ he told ‘Express’, without elaborating much or naming anyone but making amply clear that the Chief Minister was quite determined when the impasse in over the bar issue began to attain bigger proportions and politically too hot.
K C Joseph, Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala and Health Minister V S Sivakumar didn’t attend the cabinet meet.