Putting her own party on sticky wicket over the liquor issue, BJP leader and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Uma Bharti on Friday said a campaign and political will was needed to ban liquor in the state.
Addressing the media in Bhopal, the firebrand leader argued that no one died due to the liquor ban during the COVID-induced lockdown, but after the unlock, liquor availability led to road accidents, deaths, murders and sexual assaults.
Bharti’s remarks come at a time when the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government is pondering over a plan to increase liquor shops in Madhya Pradesh to counter spurious liquor and related deaths.
The former chief minister said liquor ban will be easy in the state as it will find support among the public here and the government is against addiction and also has a socio-political approach.
Claiming that political will is all that is required for banning liquor in state, Bharti said that a campaign will be launched for the same. She will be meeting the chief minister shortly on the matter.
However, she underlined the state government’s revenue constraints saying MP being a landlocked state has limited revenue options and excise duty from liquor is a key component of state’s income.
Claiming that liquor mafia cast influence on politicians and bureaucracy, Bharti the former union minister, said that revenue could be earned from other sources as well. "Minting money isn’t proper at the expense of people’s lives," she said.
On Thursday, Bharti had taken to Twitter to urge BJP president JP Nadda to ban liquor in BJP-ruled states.
Possible revenue loss from liquor ban could be made up by forming a committee of ministers, she said. It (liquor ban) can’t be done out of pressure or intimidation but through a consensus, said the former MP.
On Rajya Sabha MP Jyotiraditya Scindia being alloted a bungalow close to hers in Bhopal, Bharti reiterated that he (Scindia) was always like a nephew to her and she never campaigned against him even if her party wanted her to do so.
“If any problem approaches him, I will stand to protect him like a shield,” affirmed the saffron robed politician.
She did not forget her old adversary Digvijaya Singh, saying he has donated for the Ram temple with faith but erred while seeking account of old temple donations. “His unrestrained tongue is his biggest enemy.”
Shivraj backtracks on liquor shops hike
Excise commissioner Rajiv Chandra Dubey, who had asked district collectors to forward proposals for opening new liquor shops especially in villages, on Friday backtracked asking collectors not to act upon his previous orders. Following a high-level meeting on Friday morning, Chief Minister Chouhan also claimed that no decision has been taken yet on increasing numbers of liquor shops in the state. Sources claimed that the Shivraj government could drop the plan after drawing all around criticism on the matter.