Liquor policy graft row puts Pinarayi Vijayan government in a spot in Kerala assembly

Through an adjournment motion, the Opposition levelled serious allegations against the government, claiming that the state's liquor policy had been sabotaged.

ByDileep V Kumar

Published Jun 10, 2024 | 9:04 PM Updated Jun 10, 2024 | 9:04 PM

Liquor policy graft row puts Pinarayi Vijayan government in a spot in Kerala assembly

The first day of the 11th session of the 15th Kerala Legislative Assembly saw the Opposition trying to corner the Left Government over the corruption allegations connected with liquor policy.

Through an adjournment motion, the Opposition levelled serious allegations against the government, claiming that the state’s liquor policy had been sabotaged.

They asserted that despite the emergence of significant evidence indicating corruption, the government showed a lack of enthusiasm in pursuing an effective investigation.

The Opposition’s primary demands include the immediate registration of a First Information Report (FIR) under the Prevention of Corruption Act and the initiation of a judicial inquiry into the scandal.

With the government rejecting the said demands, UDF MLAs entered the well of the house and tried to obstruct the business by shouting slogans and raising placards.

Following this, Speaker AN Shamseer rushed through the proceedings and said the house was adjourned for the day.

Also read: Explained: Political uproar in Kerala over alleged liquor policy bribery

Requoting VS Achuthanandan

Earlier, Congress MLA Roji M John, while presenting the adjournment motion recollected the biblical verse used by the then Leader of the Opposition VS Achuthanandan in 2015 against the then Finance Minister KM Mani in the house during the bar bribery scam.

Quoting from the book of Mark, Achuthanandan asked Mani, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”

He also said, maybe a time will come when the verses might come true. If that’s so, I can’t imagine Mani falling into a hell where the ‘worms that eat the people never die and the fire there is never stopped.’

Referring to these statements, that created a ruckus then, Roji said, “The Opposition wants to say the same to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and to ministers MB Rajesh and PA Mohamed Riyas.

He also reminded the government by quoting a verse from Ramayana: “One has to bear the fruit of all his/her karmas” (than than niramtharam cheyyuna karmangal, thanthan anubhavicheedukenne varu).

He also alleged that the inquiry being conducted by the government through Crime Branch is to find how the WhatsApp voice message, where a bar owner demands money from the members so as to make favourable changes in the liquor policy, that is in the pipeline, got leaked.

“Despite all the evidence. Why is the government not willing to register a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act? The government says that there is no corruption. But the evidence of quid pro quo is right before our eyes,” said Roji.

Also read: Kerala liquor policy row: Congress accuses ministers of ‘blatant lies’, demands judicial probe

Rajesh dismisses Opposition fuss

At the same time, Excise Minister MB Rajesh said that the Opposition and some sections of the media were creating a hullabaloo on something that doesn’t even exist.

“We even didn’t hold preliminary discussions to frame the Liquor Policy 2024. The first round of discussions will be held on 12th and 13th June. First, a stakeholders meeting will be held, after which the political parties’ response will be sought, and then comes the Cabinet approval,” he said.

“It’s after these three stages that the Liquor Policy will come into being. In this case, not even the first stage has been initiated,” Rajesh said in the Assembly.

The minister also reiterated that the meetings convened by the Chief Secretary and the Tourism Director were routine ones and had nothing to do with the liquor policy. He also informed the Assembly that both the Chief Secretary and the Tourism Director have come out with an explanation regarding that.

However, Rajesh took more time to explain the behind-the-scenes discussions related to the Liquor Policy implemented by the Oommen Chandy-led UDF government.

Related: UDF demands resignation of excise, tourism ministers over alleged corruption

‘Accused turns out to be the petitioner’

Following the denial of permission to the adjournment motion, Leader of the Opposition VD Satheesan reiterated his stance that the Tourism Department had hijacked the Excise Department.

“Tourism Minister (Riyas) stated that he is not aware of the meetings convened by the Tourism Director. If that’s true, he is not fit enough to continue in the post,” he said.

“We are yet to get an explanation on why the Tourism Department is discussing the Liquor Policy bypassing the Excise Department,” said Satheesan. He then asked the chief minister if he was ready to register an FIR based on the Prevention of Corruption Act and order a judicial probe.

As he persisted, the chief minister responded that a police probe was already underway (based on the Excise Minister’s complaint). He also accused the Opposition of raising a fabricated argument and trying to create the impression that something (illegal) was happening in the state.

The CM then stated, “The State Excise Minister himself had lodged a complaint with the State Police Chief as soon as he came across false news related to the state’s liquor policy,” he said.

“An investigation is going on over the complaint, and appropriate action will be taken against whatever crimes had been committed. Do you (Opposition) want to create hurdles in the ongoing police probe?” he asked.

Reacting to this, Satheesan asked, “The scenario is that a person who has to be the accused turns out to be the petitioner.”

He then added, “What outcome could be expected in a police probe being carried out based on a complaint lodged by the Excise Minister, who is an accused in the alleged scam.”

Satheesan then vowed to continue the protest both inside and outside the legislative chambers, emphasizing the gravity of the scam.

“We will not rest until justice is served and those responsible are held accountable,” he stated, rallying his party members to sustain the pressure on the Government.

(Edited by Shauqueen Mizaj)