Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar clashed with Leader of Opposition Tejashwi Yadav at the Vidhan Sabha on Tuesday, sparked by a row over liquor bottles that were found on the premises of the legislative Assembly earlier in the day. As Yadav demanded the resignation of the chief minister questioning the integrity of the liquor ban in the state, a furious Nitish Kumar said that he will immediately order an inquiry into the incident and take “strict action” against the individual(s) responsible for the act.
Tejashwi Yadav, who has always been a harsh critic of the Bihar government’s liquor ban policy claiming that it has failed to keep the state dry, ramped up his attack on the ruling JD(U)-BJP regime over the latest incident. “This is a very big issue,” the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader said at the assembly. “If liquor is present in the premises of the Assembly, then it is the moral responsibility of the chief minister to quit his post.”
“Who is responsible for this?” asked Tejashwi Yadav at the Vidhan Sabha. “Is the home minister of Bihar sleeping? There were bottles of Coca-Cola in the premises of the Assembly too.”
The Bihar chief minister, who also holds the portfolio for home affairs, informed the House that serious note has been taken of the incident and those responsible for the lapse would face stern punishment.
“I asked him (the deputy chief minister),” Nitish Kumar told the House. “He said that bottles of liquor were found somewhere on this campus. This is extremely bad. How can this be tolerated? I say this before the Speaker, if he permits I will ask everyone to examine it today itself.”
He added, “I will tell the chief secretary and the DGP to get an inquiry done. If the bottles arrived here, it is not an ordinary thing. The one who is doing this should not be spared. Strict action should be taken.”
Notably, the empty liquor bottles, which were recovered from under a tree in the Bihar Vidhan Sabha premises earmarked as the parking lot for two-wheelers, come as a fresh embarrassment to the Nitish Kumar government – which had already been drawing flak over hooch tragedies that have claimed more than 40 lives.
The sale and consumption of alcohol were completely banned in Bihar in April 2016. The drastic move followed a promise made by Kumar to women of the state during the assembly elections of 2015, which his Janata Dal (United) (JD-U) had fought in alliance with RJD and Congress.
However, bootlegging has been thriving in the state since then and opposition leaders claim that while the poor often end up being punished for flouting prohibition, those with resources get liquor delivered to their homes. Last month, more than 40 people had died in West Champaran, Gopalganj, Muzaffarpur, and Samastipur districts after consuming spurious liquor.