THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Supreme Court Division Bench verdict upholding the liquor policy and phase-by-phase prohibition is undoubtedly a big breather for the UDF government and a shot in the arm for the ruling front politically. Even when the government can revel on the hail slogans coming and the common society’s applause, the undercurrents set to flow further on the sly may have a political and electoral fallout.
With the general elections to the Assembly just a few months away, the turn of events may leave the government to receive many hits below the belt since the once powerful liquor lobby is expected to never say die. The Opposition LDF, which is yet to come up with a promise that the closed bars will not be re-opened, will naturally find an undeclared ally in ex-bar owners to browbeat the government. Still, the matter is politically sticky since the public perception in the state is prone to swings based on the final results a policy could finally anchor. Now that the bar hoteliers can work towards a change in government, however, cannot prompt the Opposition Left to take an open stand. The Supreme Court has already frowned upon the widespread opening of beer and wine parlours to compensate the closed bars.
The government has already paid a heavy price for its liquor policy, after getting embroiled in the bar scam, which is yet to subside, and costing veteran K M Mani his ministerial chair. More disclosures and controversies may emerge in the wake of the latest verdict but whether it will have an expected run is doubtful. However, any adverse campaign against the government on the eve of a poll could vitiate the political climate and make things difficult. “We know that those running bar hotels will not rest in peace. A fresh round of attack against the government can be expected,” Excise Minister K Babu, against whom a quick verification court order is pending in the bar bribery scam, told ‘Express.’The liquor policy had been a bone of contention between the government and bar owners for nearly a year, while Chief Minister Oommen Chandy crafted a decision to primarily outwit his critics within the Congress, particularly KPCC president V M Sudheeran at that time, by announcing the closure of all bars in the state, except those in the five star category. A meagre section of the state’s population and those dependent on heavily-hit bar hoteliers for related businesses and jobs are pitted against the policy. Already, the image of the government has taken a beating over the bar bribe case.
Even if the Opposition LDF is not able to turn the tables against the UDF or cash in on the animosity between leading partner Congress and KC(M), while continuing with on and off protests for a namesake in the bar scam, the reverberations are likely to continue within the ruling front.
A disgruntled and divided Kerala Congress(M), which is licking wounds after the exit of Mani from the Cabinet, is agitated over the palpable delay in the conduct of the case against the leader.
The net impact of the SC ruling in the liquor policy thus leaves all political parties to wait for the final results. The run-up to the Assembly polls will provide the ground, with ex-bar owners also playing their last game.
MORE REVELATIONS Will COME OUT: kODIYERI
The SC verdict is not an approval for the state’s liquor policy, the CPM has said. In the backdrop of the verdict, more bar hotel owners would come out with new revelations and bribery charges against the government, said CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan. The UDF government had made the new liquor policy a tool for corruption, he alleged. Even after the new liquor policy, there was no decrease in liquor consumption, said Kodiyeri.