The revelations by the Bar Hotel Association Working President, Biju Ramesh, on a channel on Friday have stirred up controversies landing Finance Minister K M Mani as well as the Congress-led UDF Government in trouble.
According to Ramesh, Mani had demanded a bribe of Rs 5 crore for reopening the closed 418 bars, out of which Rs 1 crore was paid in two installments at his Pala home. The leaks came just after the Kerala High Court bench suspended a single-judge bench's verdict that directed just 62 of the 730 bars in the state to operate. The Minister was putting pressure for the remaining Rs 4 crore which was left unpaid due to the cabinet decision of keeping the bars closed. The government ordered a vigilance probe into the matter following a letter by Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan to the Vigilance Director. Achuthanandan had demanded a CBI inquiry and the Left parties in the state, Mani’s resignation. The state and the national level leaders of CPI (M) apparently were stuck between carrying out a vigilance investigation or to carry out a CBI inquiry and expressed the need for investigation under judicial supervision. If the CPI (M) state secretariat declines a CBI inquiry, the differences among the party members that were believed to have been settleddown, would once again surface amidst the looming party elections. The Opposition too would not be able to strike against the Chandy government.
The Chief Minister as well the others including Sudheeran has backed Mani, who strongly denied all the allegations while the blame games continued. But people have been skeptical of the Minister’s stance and have demanded a thorough investigation into the matter. The government decision to shut down the all the bars in the state except the ones associated with five star hotels to achieve a complete prohibition were welcomed with huge relief by the people. Despite the Court order of approving the four star bars, the government went ahead with the decision after the demands for strengthening the liquor ban. Sudheeran is also conducting a month long road campaign named ‘Janapaksha Yathra’ across the state to highlight the various issues plaguing the society including promoting liquor ban.
Despite all the sincere efforts to make Kerala a liquor free state, its despicable that the people from the ruling party is involving in such acts and creating hurdles in the process that would only benefit people. People are skeptical of the government move to conduct a vigilance probe so as to prolong the case. The government should be carrying out intensive inquiries and not breach their trust. The approach is cynical and the authencity of the allegations have to be validated. A sincere, fearless and unbiased investigation is required to bring out the truth.