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Reopening of 418 bars causes new tangle in Kerala

Posted on Apr 24 2014 | IANS

Thiruvananthapuram, April 24 : The issue of reopening 418 bars in Kerala has caused a new tangle for the Congress as consensus within the party on this issue continues to elude, and the government is getting ready for a massive anti-liquor campaign.

Several meetings within the party and in the United Democratic Front (UDF) were held recently but a final decision is yet to emerge.

Kerala had 752 bars, according to a 2006 study of the state excise department. It found that the condition of 418 bars was appallingly pathetic, but the then Left Democratic Front (LDF) government renewed licenses of all the bars till 2011.

Later, the government led by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy also renewed all licenses for the next two years.

A Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report in 2011 pointed out the pathetic condition of these bars, and that became cannon fodder for the recently appointed state Congress president V.M. Sudheeran.

He said only after detailed talks should a decision be taken on whether all the 418 bars be given fresh licenses.

After business hours March 31, these 418 bars were closed down while the remaining bars were allowed after licence renewal.

For the past two days, three rounds of discussion took place between the government and the Congress party coordination committee, but no solution emerged. The meeting of the Congress-led, ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) also could not take any decision.

"With Sudheeran taking a high moralistic ground, a solution is yet to emerge. What he fails to understand is that the government can function only as per the laws of the state," said an official, who did not wish to be identified.

"See, in a party like ours, where things are discussed openly, it's only quite natural that differences of opinion crop up. This is still on the discussion board and we are expecting to resolve all the issues shortly," State Excise Minister K. Babu told reporters Thursday.

Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala told reporters that no tiff took place between Chandy and Sudheeran at Wednesday's meeting, though reported in some media.

"Nothing of that sort has happened and we are certain that a decision on this issue will emerge soon," said Chennithala.

Jumping into the fray on this issue was Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan, who has now sought a judicial probe into the issue of renewing the licences of 418 bars.

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