KPCC chief's remark stirs trouble within UDF

The trouble within the Congress party and Kerala’s ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) over the state’s new excise policy resurfaced on Monday with Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president V M Sudheeran stating that the party “did not need” money or votes of liquor sellers.

Countering UDF convenor P P Thankachan’s earlier remark that the ruling front favoured a policy of abstinence over prohibition, Sudheeran said phased liquor prohibition was the UDF’s proclaimed policy.

“The party also has a policy against accepting votes by liquor sellers. A formal decision in this connection will be made after discussions by the appropriate body,” the KPCC chief said.

It was Sudheeran’s uncompromising stand against renewing licences of 418 poorly maintained bars that had eventually led to the UDF government’s proposal to close down all bar hotels outside of the five-star category.

The High Court, while partly upholding the decision, exempted bars in four-star and heritage hotels from the ban.

Even as the government filed an appeal against the HC decision, Sudheeran’s statement is set to trigger dissent within the Congress and the UDF.  Chief Minister Oommen Chandy initiated damage control by stating that political parties needed “everyone’s vote”.

The sign of opposition against the KPCC chief was evident on Monday with some of the senior Congress leaders including KPCC vice-president V D Satheeshan distancing themselves from Sudheeran’s views.

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