Indian poll scenario: Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa promises liquor prohibition if reelected!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
With a view to balancing a key poll promise being made by other parties, especially the PWF, PMK and even DMK that introduced elaborate liquor policy in Tamil Nadu to impose liquor ban in the state if elected to power, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa in her first election campaign public meeting in Chennai on April 09, has promised introduction of liquor prohibition in the state in phases if her AIADMK is voted back to power.
The ill-effects of indiscriminate liquor consumption on standards of living and public health are well-known. It is for this reason that the Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution require the state to endeavor to bring about prohibition of intoxicating drinks and drugs except those for medicinal purposes. After the decision of the Kerala government to close down bars other than those in five-star hotels and to introduce prohibition in a phased manner, political parties in Tamil Nadu are increasingly talking of pushing for a ban on liquor if they come to power. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has now joined the Pattali Makkal Katchi in campaigning for a ban, with its president M. Karunanidhi promising total prohibition if voted to power. Actually, it was Mr. Karunanidhi who in 1971 withdrew prohibition in Tamil Nadu, going back on the policy formulated by DMK founder and former Chief Minister C.N. Annadurai. At that time, his argument was that prohibition cannot work in isolation.
For instance, Puducherry, not far from Chennai, is known as a tippler’s paradise. Moreover, the State’s finances are shored up by revenue from liquor sales. Many of the government’s freebie schemes actually run on revenues from duties and taxes levied on liquor. Also, political functionaries at the lower levels of the hierarchy benefit hugely from bootlegging and the sale of illicit liquor during periods of prohibition. Even women and school children take to liquor. While many women’s groups support prohibition, the political will to crack down on illicit liquor will doubtless be weak in such circumstances. Any ban on liquor sales will necessarily have to co-exist with a spurt in bootlegging and illicit distillation.
Prohibition enforcement agencies often become enmeshed in corruption. Tamil Nadu, like Kerala, has had a history of hooch tragedies. In recent years, with the easy availability of liquor in rural areas, the State has been free of such deaths. Indeed, in 2002 the AIADMK government encouraged manufacturers to introduce cheaper liquor to wean away rural workers from hooch. If history offers any lessons, it will require enormous resources and tremendous political will for prohibition to succeed. So far, political parties have not shown the necessary political will, and governments have been unable to muster the needed resources.
Gujarat and Bihar have already enforced total prohibition.
It is in this context that the PWF and PMK promised liquor prohibition and war on corruption in the state, forcing both DMK and AIADMK also to make similar promise on prohibition without any sincere intent.
With the announcement of new liquor policy by Jaya if her party AIADMK is voted back to power a debate has begun in the Tamil media, particularly on TV channels, about the liquor policy of both DMK and AIADMK
Interestingly, in her first public election meeting in Chennai on April 09, Jayalalithaa said if her party returns to power she would implement total liquor prohibition in the state in a phased manner. However, many commentators say it is just a poll gimmick and she would never implement the liquor prohibition as she opposed it all the time and even recently she said in the assembly that it is impossible to ban liquor in the state. Perhaps, she got worked up because of PWF, DMK and PMK, etc harping on liquor prohibition in announcements. Jaya does not want to send a wrong signal to voters that she supports liquor consumption by the population.
Kickstarting her election campaign in Chennai, Jayalalithaa, also the AIADMK general secretary, said it is not possible to prohibit liquor sales in the state with one single signature of CM and has to be done step by step. Addressing a massive public rally held at the Island Grounds, she said: “If AIADMK comes back to power then prohibition will be introduced in phases. The timing of the liquor shops will be reduced, the bars will be closed, rehabilitation centres will be opened and the number of liquor outlets will be reduced.” She charged DMK president and former CM for many terms M Karunanidhi for lifting prohibition in 1971 and introducing liquor to a generation that did not know about the drink at al. Now youth is attracted towards liquor and other harmful stuff in the state, even in colleges and schools and girls also taste the “kick stuff” in a phased manner.
Very close on the heels of Jayalalithaa’s announcement of liquor prohibition scheme, DMK leader K. Karunanidhi, releasing the party manifesto on April 10 at DMK head quarters Anna Arivaalalayam, also announced if DMK is voted to power this time, it will ban liquor sales and launch schemes for poor people.
Jaya lambasted Karunanidhi saying he does not have any right to speak about prohibition at all. The AIADMK supremo also introduced at the site of public meeting her party’s 21 candidates standing for election in the assembly constituencies in Chennai and surrounding places.
PWF leaders – Vaiko and Vijayakanth – criticized the liquor announcements are mere jukes to fool the public and they have no intention for liquor ban in the state.
It is a known truth that since the fields of liquor manufacture and sales are controlled and regulated by leaders and supporters of both DMK and AIADMK, they cannot be expected to implement it liquor prohibition law. Even if by chance they ban liquor through enacting g prohibition orders in the state that would save the populations from deadly effects of liquor consumption, they would reintroduce it in a phased manner, citing some vague reasons. Kerala government has done the same by announcing prohibition in a phased manner, but today people are queuing up in front of state run foreign liquor slops. Liquor is flowing in Kerala state as usual and the drunkards need not to go to nearby states to ‘procure’ liquor bottles.
As people think the poll has become too farce as when a party comes to power it is concerned only about their leaders and families and forget the voters. It appears, the neutral Tamil voters without party affiliations have thus far voted for any party as what occurs to them in the polling booths: either AIADMK, or DMK or Congress or BJP or any other party in order not to waste their franchise, now seem to think favoring the newly formed PWF, making it to emerge a strong coalition to take on the ruling AIADMK and leaving the DMK-Congress stay far away. One does not know if these neutral voters would welcome the emergence of People’s Welfare Front (PWF) as a genuine party to work for the welfare of Tamils and the state, but the Vaiko-Vijayakanth led coalition is giving the public a natural hope of popular identity and real progress.
The CM candidate Vijayakanth has shared 26 seats with TMC as per prior understanding within PWF. The PWF alliance has left 120 out of 234 seats for the DMDK led by Vijayakanth and also projected him as the chief ministerial candidate. The extended new PWF now comprises the MDMK led by Vaiko, VCK led by Thol Thirumavalavan and two Left parties—the CPI and CPI (M), DMDK and TMC. Vijayakanth said good people will always win and bad ones will fall and DMK and AIADMK will suffer in the poll.
While the DMK leaders Karunanidhi and Stalin are deeply worried about the loss of Vijayakanth to Vaiko’s PWF, now the Congress party leader Elangovan has woken up to the emerging scenario when his former colleague and now TMC chief Vasan also has joined the PWF, further strengthening the front. Both DMK and Congress feel badly disturbed by the scenario of emergence of a powerful third front PWF to take on both ruling and opposition parties.
Tamil Nadu requires a fundamental change and general population would think and expect only the PWF can provide genuine governance. Though a multi-cornered contest is seen by the ruling AIADMK making the task easy for it mainly it believes it is not facing the usual anti-incumbency factor.
For the first time, after 1965 Tamil Nadu is now on the verge of anew politics, this time against corruption and liquor. PMK leadership would know the advantage it would reap by joining the PWF and win the poll.
Apparently, multi-cornered contest gives the ruling AIADMK an edge over other parties. Jayalalithaa has set the right poll tone with her prohibition announcement in Chennai. Meanwhile some of small alliance parties have left the AIADMK alliance in protest against Jayalalithaa’s refusal to allot MLA seats to them.
Whether or not Tamil Nadu would succeed in choosing a truly new party or people’s coalition to rule the state would work for the people – and not for the parties, leaders and families – remains to be seen. In Tamil Nadu and Kerala BJP is facing a drought situation. One does not know if Congress is helping the BJP in Kerala by aligning with left parties in West Bengal.
PWF convenor Vaiko said if they are elected to power, the government would help the people in many ways. The government would take over the money loans of students. He said with the arrival of Vasan’s TMC he is 100% sure of success in the upcoming poll.
Meanwhile, the PWF need not announce, in order to appease fellow travelers in the front, any cabinet in hurry and can do the same once they win the majority in the assembly after the poll.
Overconfidence is not good.
Meanwhile, the state poll authorities have done very good work and they have deleted over six lakh multiple entries from electoral rolls and there were dead voters kept alive in rolls, and there were cases of multiple entries. They have urged the voters to re-verify their names on rolls. Saying that the assembly poll would be conducted in fair, credible and transparent manner, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi in Chennai has unveiled two-pronged strategy of strengthening enforcement mechanisms and promotion of ethical voting to curb the money abuse during the 16 May Assembly polls. After a series of meetings to review preparations for the upcoming polls, he told reporters that the main concern in Tamil Nadu was distribution of money (by parties) and launched a strategy to curb the “menace effectively.
EC focuses on promoting ethical voting, awareness campaigns that signify that both giving and taking money was an offence would be intensified. “Focus of education (awareness) program will be ethical voting, and penal provisions will be highlighted that both giver and taker of (money) are equally liable,” and such key aspects would be publicised, the CEC said. Also, celebrities will be roped in for the initiative and the slogan “my vote is not for sale,” will be promoted through avenues like the media, cinema halls, special government video publicity vans and social media.
All the Assistant Commissioners (Income Tax) have been given special authorization to act as deputy director investigation for purposes of election period and they are now fully operational in the past one or two days. IT department has fortified its strength of personnel in this regard and which is “quite sufficient” and the state has now more than 700 personnel. In consultation with National Police Academy, probationary IPS officers will be deployed in the last week of electioneering to make flying squads more effective. Flying squads will comprise officials from central, state and central paramilitary forces. From May first week, the EC would deploy one central government employee to be part of the flying squad to impart a strong element of neutrality, and Central (police, paramilitary) forces will also be made part of flying squads. Also, certain number of police and expenditure officers will also be deployed.
Besides such initiatives, large number of people will be encouraged to take a pledge against taking money for voting. District Election Officers will invite political parties and candidates to take pledge that they will not distribute money to voters and this will be part of our new strategy.
He said the monitoring committee to detect paid news was strengthened and added that the poll expenditure for undue publicity to any particular candidate provided by any TV channel will go into the account of that particular party nominee and not the party. On deletion of “bogus” voters, he said there was no such thing as bogus voters on electoral rolls. “Voters are not bogus. Voters who are classified as multiple entries has been distorted as bogus.”
Special squads have confiscated money from vans, cars, etc, more than 50 crores so far and more money would be unearthed in the days of come as the election date approaches.