Bar bribery row: Congress seeks judicial probe, says Crime Branch inquiry won't reveal truth

M M Hassan addresses media in Thiruvananthapruam. Photo: Screengrab/ Manorama News

Thiruvananthapuram: Congress leader M M Hassan here on Saturday asked the government to order a judicial probe into the alleged bar bribery row in the state. It is alleged that bar owners were asked to pay Rs 2.5 lakh each to the government for tweaking the liquor policy in their favour. The allegation made headlines when an audio clip, purportedly of a bar association member asking other members to pay money for a favourable liquor policy, was aired on TV channels. 

Responding to this row, UDF convener Hassan who is the temporary president of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee slammed the state government for protecting excise minister MB Rajesh and tourism minister P A Mohamed Riyas from bribery charges. He claimed that the Crime Branch inquiry would not reveal the truth behind the audio clip.
“Excise minister and tourism minister must resign and face judicial probe,” he demanded. 

Taking a dig at Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Hassan claimed that the state government approved 130 new bars during his reign. The Congress leader added that the bribery collection from bar owners would not take place without seeking the CM's approval. At the same time, he also recollected CPM's attack against Congress when bar bribery allegations were raised against the UDF government in 2015.

Youth Congress stages protest 
In Palakkad, several Youth Congress activists on Saturday took out a protest march to the office of  Excise Minister M B Rajesh alleging corruption in the LDF government's liquor policy. The protest was staged a day after reports of the state government mulling scrapping the 'dry day' norm with respect to alcohol sales had kicked off a political storm in the state. Raising slogans against Minister Rajesh and the Left government, the Youth Congress activists tried to march towards his office in Palakkad. However, police thwarted the attempt by placing barricades near the office. 

The protesters tried to jump over the barricade and some even climbed atop it, leading to a minor scuffle with the police. Later, police forcibly shifted those who blocked the Thrithala-Kuttanad road here and continued to indulge in sloganeering, holding flags in their hands. Some of them could be seen dragged along the road by the police and shifted to their vehicle. 

The Controversy
The issue of withdrawal of the 'dry day' policy -- not selling alcohol in the state on the first day of every calendar month -- snowballed into a controversy after an audio clip purportedly of a bar association member allegedly asking other members to pay money for a 'favourable liquor policy', was aired on TV channels. Subsequently, the Congress-led UDF opposition came out with allegations that the Left government sought Rs 20 crore from bar owners to make a policy favourable to them and demanded the resignation of state Excise Minister M B Rajesh. Brushing aside the allegations and the demand of the opposition, Rajesh said that the state government has not yet held any deliberations regarding its liquor policy. 
(With PTI inputs)

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