No link with Kerala’s liquor bar owners, says CPI-M

Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 8 (IANS) The Communist Party of India-Marxist has no link with the liquor bar owners of Kerala and never promised to get their businesses re-opened if it came to power, a top party leader said on Monday.

Responding to fresh “revelations” in the bar bribery scam that came in the form of an audio CD telecast by TV channels here on Monday, State CPI-M secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said: “We are not fools to collude with the bar owners to pull down the Kerala government.”

The new audio CD shows whistleblower bar owner Biju Ramesh saying at a meeting of the bar owners’ association that they have got assurances from Balakrishnan that the closed bars will be re-opened.

The CD also has Ramesh saying that both Balakrishnan and CPI-M politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan want the Chandy government to be pulled down over the bar bribery scam.

Balakrishnan said it is an edited CD and that a senior police official is behind putting it in the public domain.

“The government should put out the unedited version of this CD,” he said.

The CPM leader also said the government is trying to intimidate Superintendent of Police (vigilance) R. Sukeshan, the investigating officer in the bar bribery case, by starting a probe against him.

“The Chandy government is afraid of Sukeshan and so this new probe has been ordered.”

The scam saw the resignation of finance minister K.M. Mani last year and also led to the stepping down of excise minister K. Babu, whose resignation was however not accepted, following relief from the Kerala High Court.

Meanwhile, Biju Ramesh said the game plan of the government will fall flat if the unedited version of the audio CD was to be released.

The bar bribery scandal surfaced in October 2014 when the Kerala High Court ratified the state government’s new liquor policy that put restrictions on liquor bars. The high court was hearing a petition from the Bar Hotel Owners’ Association, which challenged the government policy issued in the same month.

In line with that policy, the government had shut down all bars except those under the five star category as part of its partial prohibition policy which has since been upheld by the Supreme Court.

Following the shutdown, bar owners alleged that the then Finance Minister K.M. Mani and Excise Minister K. Babu had taken bribe from them to not increase the bar license fee and to reopen closed bars.

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