“Some people have turned against me over the prohibition policy,” Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said on Monday, in a swipe at both ally BJP and rival Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) ahead of a meeting to review the state’s liquor ban after recent deaths due to spurious liquor.
The Chief Minister’s flagship prohibition policy has been questioned not just by the opposition but also his own ally, the BJP, after 60 deaths due to poisonous liquor and the rise of the liquor mafia in Bihar.
“There can be individual opinions. But we have listened to the people, to women and to a large number of men too. Most people are against liquor. We follow Bapu’s (Mahatma Gandhi) principles. Whatever he had said, we have implemented,” said Nitish Kumar.
“Have they forgotten that this was implemented with everyone’s approval? Had any party opposed it then, be it the ruling side or the opposition,” he questioned.
Referring to the deaths, the Chief Minister said it is a serious matter and called for spreading more awareness on prohibition. “If you drink, you will die,” should be the message, he said.
“Since 2018, we have spread awareness on how many people have died and taken ill due to liquor consumption. We will publicise this more,” he said.
Besides criticism from main opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Mr Kumar’s pet policy has also drawn the disapproval from state president of ally BJP Sanjay Jaiswal. Soon after the recent series of deaths, Mr Jaiswal had said there is “definitely a need to review this policy” and also raised questions on the administration’s role.
RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav trashed the review meeting as a farce. “The Chief Minister is surrounded by the same officials, what is different? How many review meetings have been conducted by the Chief Minister, have the incidents decreased or have they gone up?,” said Mr Yadav, also the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly.