Liquor is hot property as TN prepares for elections

Political parties are raising the issue of total prohibition in the state despite liquor bringing crores of revenue

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Shivani Chaturvedi | August 1, 2015 | Chennai


#prohibition   #tamil nadu   #tn   #dmk   #pmk   #vijayakanth   #tasmac  

In India, during elections liquor plays an important role. Tamil Nadu may not be an exception. But the issue in the coming assembly elections could be about liquor prohibition in the state. The public debate over complete prohibition comes after over two decades of ban on arrack and country liquor.

Almost all political parties have raised the need for prohibition.  Regional parties like S Ramadoss’s Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), Vijayakanth’s Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), Vaiko’s Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) and national party BJP,  have either called for prohibition or protested against the liquor business conducted by the state agency TASMAC or Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation.

TASMAC is the licensed authority in the state to sell liquor. TASMAC has been witnessing a steady increase in its sales revenue from 2003.  The sale of liquor has always been a steady and dependable source of income for the government.

However, there are also talks now that the state government is mulling over a phased programme of prohibition.

Main opposition party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) is floundering after its worst performance in two decades in the last election. The party’s core support has dwindled and DMK supremo M Karunanidhi hopes to capitalise on his prohibition promise.

From tomorrow (August 2), the party would get down to the business of drafting the manifesto for the assembly polls and liquor prohibition is expected to figure prominently in the draft.

Interestingly, some DMK heavyweights and also leaders close to the ruling AIADMK are active in the liquor business in the state. This discounts the possibility of DMK going all out for the prohibition.

“People of the state are well aware that both the Dravidian parties—AIADMK and DMK have reaped a lot of benefits from liquor trade,” says professor Ramu Manivannan, head of the department, political science, Madras university.

It is not about prohibition alone. The bigger concern is how effective is the liquor policy in Tamil Nadu, Manivannan says “there has been boundless greed of the government to earn revenue through liquor sales. Presently liquor policy is not at all working in terms of social issues. If selling liquor is a source of revenue for the government, the government should find out more effective ways of collecting revenues,” he adds.

The DMK capitalising on prohibition is not new in the state. It was Karunanidhi who lifted ban on prohibition in 1971 and reintroduced it in 1974. Between 1971 and 1991, prohibition was enforced and later repealed several times. 1991, the state had banned arrack and country liquor.

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