The Opposition in Kerala called for the resignation of the state’s Excise and Tourism ministers, and for them to face a judicial probe, in connection with allegations of bribery linked to a potential new liquor policy

The bribery allegation stemmed from a WhatsApp voice note purportedly sent by a bar-hotel owners’ association office bearer, in which he is heard asking members to collect money to be paid in order to “get things done” in their favour ahead of the formulation of the liquor policy.

Opposition leader V D Satheesan said Sunday that the Chief Secretary had, in a meeting held early last month, assigned the Tourism secretary to report on changes in the liquor policy. “On May 21, the Tourism department had a Zoom meeting in which bar-hotel owners also took part. The link to that Zoom meeting is with me. That meeting had discussed lifting dry day (on the first day of every month) and extending bars’ operation time. The fund collection drive among the bar-hotel owners is a sequel to this Zoom meeting,” Satheesan said.

On Saturday, Excise Minister M B Rajesh had claimed that the state government had not even initiated preliminary discussions on this fiscal’s liquor policy. Referring to the idea of lifting dry days, which found reference in the voice note, Rajesh said, “There are reports about things which have not been discussed. Police will look into the issue. It is clear that those who have given the money and those who are out to exploit the situation will face action.”

However, Congress’s Satheesan questioned Tourism Minister P A Muhammed Riyas’s role in the matter. “The Tourism department is unnecessarily meddling in the liquor policy. Why did the Tourism department convene a meeting of the bar-hotel owners? We want the Excise minister and the Tourism ministers to quit their offices and face a judicial probe,” he demanded.

BJP state president K Surendran also commented on the matter, saying Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had taken after his Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal in watering down the state’s liquor policy. “The bar owners have collected money for easing the liquor policy. We want a central agency to probe the scandal,” he said.

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2024-05-26T17:17:53Z dg43tfdfdgfd