Free Press Journal

Bhopal: Babus force Chief Minister to take U-turn on prohibition


BHOPAL: Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who had announced prohibition would be imposed in the state in a ‘phased manner’ in his numerous speeches at different places during the Naramada Yatra, has hinted that the government has no plans of imposing prohibition in the state from the next year.

Addressing the concluding function of the BJP state executive meeting at Mohankheda in Dhar district on Sunday, Chouhan said from the next year, liquor shops would not be allowed near schools, places of worship and residential localities. He has thus made it clear that the government does not intend to banish liquor from the state, as has been done by Gujarat and, more recently by Bihar.

In his interaction with divisional commissioners and collectors during Samadhan Online, he had directed the officers to shift liquor shops from areas where they were being opposed by residents.  Fifteen days down the line, not a single shop in the state has been shifted or closed. Sources said Chouhan had to backtrack on the issue of shifting liquor shops from residential areas under pressure of the bureaucrats and also because of the revenue loss it would have entailed. Not only that, the CM had to publicly state that liquor shops would open in the state the next year too.

Sources said the CM had asked the officers to assess how much revenue the government would stand to lose if, from the next year, the system of allowing ‘ahatas’ (places where people can drink liquor) by the side of liquor outlets was done away with. The government may think in the terms of closing down small bars and ahatas. As for total prohibition, it is not even being considered.

Sources in the BJP claimed the government was waiting for the Congress to take a stand on the issue. If the Congress entered the poll arena with a promise of imposing prohibition on coming to power, the government might try to outmanoeuver it by announcing prohibition. And that is why; Chouhan is not making any categorical statement on the issue.

Leader of opposition in Vidhan Sabha Ajay Singh said he did have a personal stand on prohibition but refused to reveal it. “It is for the government to decide,” was all he said. There is a substantial tribal population in the state and consumption of liquor is a part of their culture. That is also one reason why the BJP and the Congress both are fighting shy of taking a clear stand on the issue.