Kerala Finance Minister K.M. Mani was not the only one who received bribes from bar owners, but Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala and Excise Minister K. Babu also took money to tweak the state’s liquor policy, former chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan said Monday.
Chennithala and Babu, however, denied the allegations.
Achuthanandan said this during a protest in front of the State Secretariat here, demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Mani for taking bribes from bar owners to tweak the liquor policy.
“The next time you meet any of these ministers, ask them how much bribe did they take,” said Achuthanandan, leader of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).
“They should resign and face a probe. As long as Chandy and Chennithala are at the helm of affairs in the state, no fair probe will ever take place,” he said.
Last year, whistle-blower bar owner Biju Ramesh had alleged that bribe was paid to a few ministers to ensure that the 418 bars ordered closed in the state are reopened.
Rubbishing the allegations levelled by Achuthanandan, Chennithala said the CPI-M leader was trying to take revenge because police have arrested a few people in this connection.
“I am ignoring what he (Achuthanandan) said because this is the first time my name has cropped up in the bar scam. There is no merit at all in what he said,” Chennithala said.
Babu asked Achuthanandan to “stop speaking nonsense” and instead come out with evidence to back his allegation.
“Even Ramesh (the bar owner) has never said I took bribe. Achuthanandan should not stoop so low,” he said.
A new liquor policy was issued in Kerala in August 2014, following which bars in the state were prohibited from selling liquor on Sundays starting Oct 2.
However, bowing to pressure from various quarters, the Congress-led United Democratic Front government later decided that Sundays will not be dry days.
The UDF said the fundamentals of the policy – to implement prohibition in Kerala in a phased manner by Oct 2, 2024 – will not be touched.
Chandy said the liquor policy was tweaked to make it “socially realistic”.