High on poll ammo

Patna, Feb. 2: Liquor is gradually becoming a major political tool for both the ruling JD(U) and the opposition RJD ahead of the next Assembly elections.

While the RJD has pledged to impose a total prohibition in Bihar if it comes to power, the JD(U) is banking on excise duty to make a turnaround in the state coffer before going to voters.

During the recent national executive of the RJD, leaders of the state's largest opposition party charged the government with promoting "alcoholism". The party, in its political resolution, said many girl students were refusing to receive bicycles provided by the state because those were "purchased with revenue earned through poisonous liquor".

The RJD has also pledged to impose total prohibition in the state if it came to power after the next election. Veteran RJD leader and former Union minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said: "The government is trying to convince people that the number of liquor shops has been reduced. But there are at least two licensed liquor shops in each of the 8,500 panchayats. The number of illegal outlets is much higher."

The government, which is on a sticky wicket following the recent hooch tragedies in Gaya, Ara and Patna, has, however, sought to clarify its liquor policy.

"The hooch tragedies cannot be equated with our liquor policy. It concerns illegal country-made liquor and the government is taking action. The fact is that the number of liquor shops allowed by the government is limited. The revenue collection is growing during the JD(U)'s regime because of our administrative acumen in stopping illegal liquor trade," excise minister Bijendra Prasad Yadav told The Telegraph.

He, however, ruled out any chance of imposition of total prohibition in the state. "People drink even in Gujarat despite total prohibition," the minister said.

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