Sparks may fly at Kerala UDF meet over liquor, cabinet rejig
Sparks are certain to fly at Thursday's UDF meeting here when the top brass will finalise the liquor policy, allocation of Plus-two batches and schools in Kerala, and the cabinet rejig.
"Yes, there are divergent opinions over the liquor policy in the UDF (United Democratic Front) and the upcoming meeting will discuss this," Power Minister Araydan Mohammed told reporters Sunday.
Trouble started for the Congress and the UDF ever since senior Congress leader V.M. Sudheeran, despite strong opposition from Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala, was appointed state Congress president in February.
The new liquor policy has been hanging fire as Sudheeran, a known anti-liquor campaigner, put his foot down and riding on a CAG report, said 418 bars in the state with poor infrastructure should not be given new licences for operation in this fiscal.
Today the issue is before the Kerala High Court which has asked the state government to come up with a new liquor policy and also directed a two-member government committee to submit its report Aug 26 on the condition of the 418 bars.
Sudheeran was irked when Excise Minister K. Babu, a close aide of Chandy, said the government can function only as per law and cannot air the comments of Sudheeran in court.
"Sudheeran is playing to the gallery to get publicity, similar to what A.K. Antony did when he closed down all arrack shops in the state in the mid-nineties," said a senior UDF leader, who declined to be named.
He too said: "Sudheeran can do it but not Chandy because the latter has to function as per law of the land. The need of the hour is to settle this impasse in a practical way."
Another issue is about schooling and that's before the high court, which has asked the state government to produce all the documents and files that led to the issuance of the order granting new Plus-two schools and batches.
The court will examine if the government ignored the recommendations of the higher secondary director as a few petitions allege other considerations went into sanctioning batches and schools.
A third issue that has been hanging fire for long is the cabinet rejig by Chandy, who has time and again said changes will take place.
However, even after putting up a decent show in the Lok Sabha elections, the pulls and pressures of coalition and factional politics have put the process on hold.
K.B. Ganesh Kumar of the Kerala Congress (Pillai), who quit as minister due to domestic issues, has since separated from his wife and has been breathing down Chandy's neck for re-induction.
Likewise, the one-member RSP which got two more legislators into its fold from the Left opposition is seeking a better portfolio.
All these issues can well see fresh wrangling at the meet.
(Posted on 17-08-2014)
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