In a  move that could worsen the bickering in the Congress in Kerala, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala has come out against the liquor policy of the UDF government in which he was the Home Minister. He also demanded a correction to the policy. The statement goes against the official stand taken by the Congress and the UDF.  


In an interview published in Kalakaumudi, a Malayalam weekly, Chennithala said that the liquor policy of the UDF failed to make the desired impact. It is for the party (Congress) to take a call on reviewing the policy. I will air my views on the policy during the discussion within the party," Chennithala said. 

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The statement has come as a huge embarrassment for the Congress as it was planning to take on the Left government over its attempts to scuttle the liquor policy that aimed at implementing prohibition in a phased manner.  The UDF leaders are wondering why Chennithala made such a statement that supported the moves of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala to reverse the liquor policy.

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Predictably, the statement of the Leader of the Opposition brought cheers in the LDF. Tourism Minister AC Moideen, who has been advocating a policy change, was quick to welcome Chennithala's open confession that the liquor policy failed. "I am happy that the Leader of Opposition realised the facts on the ground," the minister said. 

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Meanwhile, Excise Minister TP Ramakrishnan said that the Congress should clarify whether the views of Chennithala reflected the opinion of the party. In fact, the consumption of liquor has increased in the state after the implementation of the policy that brought in restrictions on the availability of alcohol, he added.


But VM Sudheeran took strong exception to the statement and rejected the demand for a review of the policy. "There is no need to review the liquor policy. It was adopted unanimously by the party," he said.


The Indian Union Muslim League state general secretary KPA Majeed also stated that there was no need to reconsider the liquor policy. The policy was formulated by the UDF and not just by the Congress, he pointed out.  


Two years back, the previous UDF government in the state adopted a liquor policy that envisaged complete prohibition in the state within ten years in a phased manner. As a first step, the government closed down all the liquor bars except the five-star category bar hotels. Though the bars in other categories were allowed to function, and to supply wine and beer, the restrictions on Indian Made Foreign Liquor remained. It raised a political storm in the state and was a major poll debate during the Assembly elections this May.