Hyderabad: The Andhra Pradesh unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has promised to provide liquor at a much cheaper rate of Rs 75 if the party comes to power, amid a row over high liquor prices in the state.
Speaking at a public event Tuesday, Andhra BJP chief Somu Veerraju said if the state’s nearly “one crore liquor consumers” vote for the BJP in the next assembly polls, the party would ensure that liquor is provided at only Rs 75. If the revenue is “good”, the rate would be slashed to Rs 50, he added.
“I am telling you, one crore people are drinking (liquor) and if these one crore people vote for BJP, we will give you cheap liquor at only Rs 75. If revenue is good, we will give it for only Rs 50 and we will prepare a good quality one,” Veerraju said.
The state has an estimated 3.69 crore voters.
Currently, local liquor is sold in the state for Rs 150. However, the average rates are believed to be higher in Andhra as compared to neighbouring states.
On average, Veerraju said, a person in Andhra consumes liquor worth Rs 12,000 every month, which is going directly to the government’s pockets. Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, he added, is in turn giving this money back to people in the form of various welfare schemes.
Veerraju also said that the BJP would provide alternatives in every sector — from agriculture to education.
The BJP state chief’s comments were made at the party’s Praja Agraha Sabha event, which was attended by Union Minister Prakash Javadekar. The party’s national secretary Sunil Deodhar and national general secretary Daggubati Purandeswari were also present.
The Congress labeled the BJP’s promise of cheap liquor a “shame”, questioning if the party can instead provide petrol at the same rates.
Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy, adviser to the Andhra government (public affairs), said the BJP operates on a “script” given by former CM Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
“If anything, BJP has to answer about the comments they made yesterday. They kind of operate on a script given by TDP. Not just BJP, even Congress for that matter. We have seen what earlier governments tried to do with liquor issue. Our government tried to create a balance by rationalising it, making sure the ‘reachability’ (access) to liquor is less,” he said.
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Andhra liquor policy and row over it
The BJP’s promise of cheap liquor comes as the Jagan Reddy government’s liquor policy has come under question in the last few months.
When he took over as CM, Reddy promised complete “prohibition” in a phased manner, looking to curb an alleged addiction problem in the state, primarily seen to be affecting the economically weaker sections. However, his government took control of liquor sales, soon became its lone wholesaler and retailer, and has now pivoted the policy to ‘restriction’.
According to the government, the number of retail liquor outlets were reduced to 2,934 from 4,380 over the last two years.
In the first eight months of 2019, the state government earned a profit of Rs 12,005 crore and a total revenue of Rs 14,375 crore from liquor sales. In 2020, despite a lockdown, the government earned a profit of Rs 13,436 crore, with the revenue rising to Rs 16,979 crore. According to the CM, this revenue will be used on the state’s welfare schemes.
Last month, the government hiked the tax on liquor to 50-60 per cent, but slashed it — reportedly causing prices to drop by 15-20 per cent — after uproar from the Opposition.
What the Congress said
Andhra Pradesh Congress women’s wing president Sunkara Padmasri lashed out at Somu Veerraju, asking if the BJP has the courage to promise a litre of petrol for Rs 70.
“It is a shame to even listen to such a promise. Does BJP have the guts to provide a litre of petrol for Rs 70? This shows BJP can stoop to any level for power,” she said.
Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra also slammed the party, asking if the BJP would also provide “bovine kebabs”.
Andhra BJP chief says “Cast one crore votes to BJP & get liquor for just ₹70.”
Brilliant election strategy Messrs Shah & Modi. What next? Side order of bovine kebabs?
— Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) December 29, 2021
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)
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