Will Nitish Kumar roll back liquor ban in Bihar?

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, December 27: Over 200 SUVs were sold in Patna this Dhanteras. Sale of two-wheelers in Bihar is almost equal to the size in Karnataka. Prices of land and flats in the newly-built semi-high rise buildings in some of the cities of Bihar are more than Noida. There are no authentic data yet to link to the consumption depth in Bihar to the emergence of the alleged syndicate of liquor peddlers, which allegedly consists of the politicians, bahubalis, police and an army of unemployed youth.

Revenue of states from sales of liquors range from 15-20 per cent of the total revenue of the states. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in 2016 decided to forego this revenue in a barter for the votes of the women constituency. The decision was authentically electorally tested in the 2020 Assembly elections.

The ruling JD (U) would rather believe that the people gave a verdict on the prohibition policy when the party had a rich haul of the Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 general elections. But that was by all accounts which has concurrence of analysts was on the Narendra Modi magic. In the 2020 Bihar elections, women had to gain give a bagful of votes to Kumar for the prohibition policy. But the JD (U) came crashing down to the third spot, and the party had to sweat against the spirited campaign of Chirag Paswan, who had launched campaign against Kumar.

Women voters were no more electoral insurance to the JD (U). “The women voters became aware that the people were still consuming liquor, with no less intensity. Rather, the people were paying more for liquors, which was a pain for the women. Also, the relatives of the women had additional expenses in meeting the costs of the lawyers. The women voters became aware of the well-entrenched liquor syndicate in the state,” said a senior political observer from Patna.

Now, Bihar is wondering, will Kumar rollback the prohibition policy. Will the Chief Minister admit that the liquor ban was not enforceable? Or, will the Chief Minister accept that giving parallel of hooch tragedies in another prohibition policy state of Gujarat is not cogent?

“If prohibition policy is rolled back, even hypothetically speaking, there will be social uprising on the streets. The women will be pushed on the forefronts of the protests to give a semblance that they want the liquor ban to stay. This will be done, because each city has a syndicate, which is making a killing due to the prohibition policy. Lakhs of youths have found employments in this new industry,” added a senior official from Bihar.

Worse, the floodplains of Ganga and other rivers have allegedly become the brewing centres of liquor and also for the storage by the peddlers. Writ of the police has rarely run in such areas where those who hold the sticks rule the marshy land watered by the Ganges. The Bihar Chief Minister may never course-correct, and now it’s beyond his competence to put the genie back in the bottle, added the official. (three part series is now completed)

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