BJP extends support to Nitish's human chain programme but seeks to know whether factories will be shut before Jan 21

Ex-CM Manjhi to keep off
Report by: 
11 Jan 2017

The BJP has extended its support to the Bihar government's human chain programme planned to raise awareness on prohibition on January 21, but the party today sought to know if the Nitish Kumar-led state government would shut the factories still manufacturing alcohol before that day.

"When there is total prohibition in the state, what is the rationale behind allowing 12 foreign liquor factories and three beer manufacturing units to function?", senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi asked. In a statement here, Sushil raised several questions regarding prohibition in the state in view of the human chain programme. The chief minister has described the liquor trade as "immoral" but has not shut down the alcohol manufacturing units, Sushil alleged, adding that these units were being "encouraged by tax and duty waiver".

The BJP leader also sought to know if the state government would take back, before January 21, the stringent provisions in the new Excise Act such as the ones related to community fine and arrest of all the adults in the event of recovery of liquor bottles from a house. The all-party meeting on prohibition had sought nullification of these stringent provisions, he said and wondered why no action was taken even after the lapse of a month. "Despite total prohibition, why thousands of litres of alcohol are being seized everyday", he asked.

It deserves mention here that the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) a major constituent of Bihar`s ruling Grand Alliance, on Tuesday decided to support and join chief minister`s proposed human chain to raise awareness about the liquor prohibition issue in the state. "All RJD leaders and workers have been asked to join human chain to ensure its success," RJD president Lalu Prasad told media here.  Till last week most of the senior BJP leaders in Bihar, including Union ministers, were questioning the liquor ban and publicly termed it as a black law. "Prohibition is a good step. Any step for social change is very difficult but Nitish Kumar has initiated it by enforcing prohibition. All people, including political parties, should back him," Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said during a Prakash Utsav function, commemorating 350th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh, here in Gandhi Maidan on Thursday.

 The chief minister had also supported the surgical strike by the Indian Army last year across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. However, differences surfaced within NDA in Bihar today with Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), an ally of BJP, announcing that it would not participate in the human chain. The announcement to not participate in January 21 mammoth human chain to express commitment towards new liquor law in Bihar was made by HAM president and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi. "The NDA had together described the Excise Act, 2016, of Bihar as 'Talibani' because of certain stringent provisions like arrest of entire family members on recovery of liquor in a house and community fine among others. No Amendment has been brought in the Act and in this condition supporting the Law is not right," Manjhi said. The NDA parties had also voiced protest against these stringent provisions in the Excise Act during all party meeting on prohibition late last year, he said. "Before participating in human chain, the parties in NDA should first express regret for calling the Liquor law as 'Talibani'," Manjhi, MLA, said adding Nitish Kumar could use our participation to justify the Excise Act and make a public criticism of our protest against some inherent provisions.

On BJP's announcement of joining the human chain on January 21, Manjhi said: "it's a unilateral decision of the saffron party without consulting NDA partners."  Responding to the chief minister's appeal to all political parties to participate in the human chain involving more than two crore citizens, which would be largest in the world, the BJP announced it would participate in the event. The BJP's announcement in support of human chain backing of Prohibition is construed in media as a result of Prime Minister Narendra Modi effusive praise of Nitish Kumar at the concluding function of 350 'Prakash Parva' in Patna on January 5 on prohibition.

Reacting to Manjhi, chief spokesman of Bihar BJP, Vinod Narayan Jha said that his party was still opposed to provisions like arrest of the entire family in the event of recovery of liquor bottle in a home, community fine among others but barring these clauses. BJP has been in support of law against liquor. "HAM is a separate party and can take a decision on any issue," Jha said. The state BJP chief spokesman also clarified that Prime Minister had appreciated steps against prohibition and had not talked of the new Excise Act brought by the Nitish Kumar-led state government. Nitish had planned a 5,000-km-long human chain on January 21 to bolster support among common people on the prohibition. However, on Saturday, he decided to double up the length of the proposed 11,000-km long human chain after receiving praise from the Prime Minister.