HYDERABAD: Old habits die hard. This saying appears to be right in case of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu.
Naidu, who had banked on the sale of liquor to fill the coffers during his earlier stint as the chief minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh, seems to be once again considering liquor as a good source of income for the cash-starved state.
Despite his poll promise to bring down the large-scale consumption of alcohol in the state, Naidu is now planning to set up state-run retail liquor shops on the lines of Tamil Nadu.
Akin to the Varuni Vahini scheme (literally, stream of liquor), run by N T Rama Rao’s government in 1986 in Andhra Pradesh, during which arrack was sold by peddlers in every nook and corner of the state, Naidu too appears to be planning the same.
Since licences given to individuals to run more than 4,000 liquor shops across the state are going to expire by June 30, the TDP government has begun finalising its new liquor policy, reportedly aiming at taking over the entire liquor business from the hands of private persons.
“We are studying the models of the business in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. We will soon decide which model is the best for our state,” said Excise Minister Kollu Ravindra, adding, the state government will unveil the new excise policy soon and implement it from July 1.
Naidu has asked the excise and prohibition department officials to hold a public debate on the state government’s plans to take over the liquor business. He had lifted the ban on sale of alcohol in 1996 which was at that time imposed by his late father-in-law NT Rama Rao soon after he had dethroned him. The TDP government’s proposed move to generate more revenue from sale of liquor is being widely criticised. “They are breaking the promise they made during elections. It’s unfair,” YSR Congress spokesperson Vasireddy Padma said.
Liquor business in Andhra in the private sector is indirectly controlled by some politicians. For instance, family members of former APCC chief Botcha Satyanarayana, former MP Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy, kin of former MP DK Adikesavulu Naidu, who died a few years ago, and kin of industrialist-turned-TDP MP TG Venkatesh are in the liquor business.
Botcha’s family, which used to have 27 per cent share in 37 liquor shops in north Andhra region till recently, had faced several allegations in the liquor scam that surfaced in 2012.