Bihar now hooch tragedy capital; Nitish Kumar lashes at ‘Sharabi” BJP MLAs

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, December 14: Politics sometimes leads leading lights on treacherous paths, and slides may become irreversible. The ‘Sharabi’ MLAs of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) got tongue lashing from Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday in the Assembly amid pandemonium over another hooch tragedy in the state, which by evening had reportedly taken a toll of 10 lives.

Bihar has reported not less half a dozen hooch tragedy this year. People are dying by consuming illicit liquor, called ‘polythene daru’ by the locals. A large number of youth are in prisons after they were caught consuming liquor. The people are also arrested for possessing liquor. Sometimes back liquor bottle was also found in the premises of the Bihar Assembly. But prohibition, which makes consumption and possession of liquor a criminal offence, is the holy law of Bihar and words spoken against it would only be blasphemous.

The National Family Health Survey 2019-20 had revealed that men from Bihar consumed more liquor than their Maharashtra counterparts. Over 15 per cent of men in Bihar over 15 years of age consumed liquor. That’s statistics based on India’s most credible data gathering source. Bihar banned consumption of liquor in 2016, a year after bagging a fresh mandate in 2015 when Kumar got the mandate independent of the BJP, as he struck an alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the election strategist Prashant Kishor played the matchmaker for the JD (U) and the Tejaswi Yadav headed outfit.

Hooch tragedies since the imposition of prohibition is a normal in Bihar. Even Chief Minister’s home constituency Nalanda couldn’t escape the hooch tragedy deaths. The Holi celebrations this year had turned into a day of mourning in several homes in various parts of the state as scores of the people died after consuming illicit liquor. In the current year, hooch tragedies have been reported from Saran, Bhagalpur, Nalanda, Madhepura, Banka, etc.

In 2016, Kumar was convinced that women are his greatest electoral constituency, which was again affirmed in the 2020 Assembly elections in Bihar. He had won the state polls in an alliance with the BJP in 2022, but his party lost much of the strength, which sowed the seeds of the discords with the saffron outfit, leading to their parting of the ways. The BJP among other issues wanted Kumar to review his stubbornness for prohibition. But the issue of consuming liquor is not about sound policy making. It remains Kumar’s sole vote insurance policy. Thus, Kumar lashed out at the BJP MLAs in the Bihar Assembly, saying “Sharabi ho gaye ho…jad saath the tab kya kahte the hamare baare mein…ab kya ho gaya hai (gone drunkard…How was I spoken of when you were with me…what has happened now)”. The hooch tragedies indeed took place in Bihar even when the BJP shared power with Kumar.

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