Distributive policy

Months ahead for MCD polls, AAP liquor policy hiccups boost BJP morale

SEEKING to snatch the municipalities of Delhi, which remain with the BJP despite the two successive polls of the Aam Aadmi party in the capital, the government of Arvind Kejriwal has encountered a setback: its new alcohol policy.

The Liberalization Policy, which marks the government’s complete exit from the liquor trade and paves the way for the reduction of the drinking age from 25 to 21 and the permitting of liquor delivery to home, gave the BJP a hand a month before the municipal elections – just when the AAP had the flip side following allegations of corruption, mismanagement and corporate neglect.

Four months after the policy was implemented, the AAP had to make an amendment, essentially banning liquor vendors from offering discounts, which landed it in a court case. The government defended its decision by saying sales were overcrowded with customers, leading to public order issues.

Announcing the new policy last March, Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said “the sale of alcohol should not be a government’s business”, while stressing that the new policy promised higher excise revenue for the government. The policy was finally rolled out in November 2021.

The BJP has been in power in Delhi’s three municipal corporations for 15 years. In 2017, he circumvented anti-incumbency and corruption allegations by denying tickets to all sitting advisers. However, for three years now, the AAP has singularly focused on business, regularly organizing demonstrations and press conferences, also profiting from protests by MCD employees over non-payment of wages.

Then came the new alcohol policy. For four months now, the tables have been turned, with the BJP now regularly staging protests over the issue.

Prior to the new policy, Delhi had about 850 liquor stores, more than half of which were government-run. After the change, the total number of sales was to remain the same but be reallocated to ensure even distribution.

This involved closing sales in some places and creating new ones in other places. That’s when the first protests took place, in the areas where the new stores were popping up. While a majority was led by the BJP or Congress, a few were also led by locals.

The issue has also been raised by both the BJP and Congress during the elections in Punjab, where the AAP has a stake, accusing the Kejriwal government of promoting alcoholism. Incidentally, in BJP-ruled Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, the minimum drinking age is 21, which the Kejriwal government had cited for its change.

In early January, as the BJP intensified its protests in the capital, Sisodia accused its leaders of being worried about losing their “commission”. “Before the new liquor policy, there were no liquor stores in about 80 neighborhoods. In these places, illegal liquor stores were run with the patronage of the BJP leaders, in collusion with the MCD and the police…Before the new excise policy, alcohol revenue in Delhi was 6,000 crore of rupees, now they have gone to 9,500 crore rupees,” he said.

The BJP has also alleged a plan to create separate “pink thekas” for women, a claim denied by excise department officials. Recently, BJP MP for North West Delhi, Hans Raj Hans said, “Pink theke se pi ke, galiyon aur naaliyon main agar koi gir gayin, achi lagengi auratein aise jhoolti huin (if women fall into sewers and the streets after drinking from pink liquor vendors, if they stumble, it will look good)? »

The protests are also the reason why the framework for two key elements of the new policy – lowering the drinking age and home delivery of alcohol – has yet to be adopted by the government. ‘Assembly.

A senior leader said he did not want to associate with the BJP as it could only help spread its “misinformation”. “There is no way to respond to these allegations, some of which are completely false, without getting mired in unnecessary polemics before the polls,” the leader said.

An AAP leader closely associated with the municipal campaign said that contrary to BJP claims of an increase in alcohol sales, “the number of shops in Delhi has decreased”. “Only about 500 are open now, while many are mired in battles in court or with municipal corporations.”

A government official said: “The fact is that the policy changes have brought significant funds to the government. There are several startup issues, but we believe they will resolve themselves. The government decided to tackle any backlash through officials and the Excise Department, not through politics. The official admitted that among those who complained about the new policy are RWAs or even advisers. “We have also ordered the closure of many distributors. This, however, will not be highlighted by the government as the idea is to completely divert attention from this issue.

The importance of municipal ballots to the AAP cannot be overstated. Last time out, not only did he finish behind the BJP, but his vote share was down significantly from Assembly polls in 2015. Another loss would raise questions about the effectiveness of his anti-corruption campaign.

Meanwhile, on Friday, the BJP unit in Delhi launched its “referendum” against the policy. State Unity General Secretary Kuljeet Singh Chahal said about 50,000 workers will be stationed in markets, near schools and religious places to ask people’s opinion on the matter.