AS THE Aam Aadmi Party’s splinter group, Swaraj Abhiyan, remodels itself into a full-fledged political party, the first major campaign launched by the outfit — led by co-founders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan — is set to question AAP’s fundamental promise of ‘swaraj’ and its de-addiction promise in Punjab.
The formation of the political party is underway and is set to conclude by October 2 when it will be officially christened and the party leadership will be announced. Meanwhile, Swaraj Abhiyan is propelling a campaign against liquor vends in residential areas.
Right at the outset, the body has clarified it is not campaigning for a ‘Bihar-like prohibition’ but is fighting for hapless residents in the capital, who have approached the body complaining about mushrooming liquor stores in their neighbourhoods.
“When we took up the issue of a liquor vend that became a nuisance in a residential colony in Kotla Mubarakpur, we started getting similar public grievances from other areas. Residents, especially women, complained that liquor stores were mushrooming in their neighbourhood. Despite protests, the government has done nothing to curb this,” said Ajit Jha, who is a part of the six-member committee overseeing the formation of the political party. “We have heard from eight other localities in Karawal Nagar, Jungpura, Model Town, Janakpuri among others and will take up their cause,” he added.
Since the start of its campaign last week, the party has released data from RTI applications that show the opening of 58 new liquor stores since February last year and has claimed that the revenue from liquor sales in the tenure of the AAP government has “almost doubled”.
Citing the AAP’s election manifesto, Jha added, “The 61st point in its 70-point manifesto had promised to make Delhi free of addiction, keep a close vigil on smuggling of addictive substances and to ensure strictest punishment to offenders… While none of this has happened, the AAP government seems to be promoting the hotel lobby by boosting liqour sales… While in Punjab, the party promises complete de-addiction, it has been unable to do anything in a state where it is already in power.”
Yogendra Yadav, who held a massive jansunwai at Kotla Mubarakpur last week on the issue, said, “While we are not rooting for prohibition because that encourages the mafia and smuggling, we are demanding a sensible forward-looking excise policy. This was the same government that came to power on the promise of swaraj and mohalla sabhas, giving the right to local residents, but when it comes to opening up new liquor stores it has not even bothered to ask the residents or acknowledge their complaints.”
He added, “We want the state excise policy to be placed in public domain for a fair debate on it. The government should try to reduce liquor consumption. That is exactly what it had promised.”
Countering the allegations, a senior official said, “The figures are being misinterpreted by the Swaraj Abhiyan. Their claims are misleading. Of the 58 vends being cited, 37 have come up in malls, six are state-run and the remaining 15 have been relocated. Relocation does not mean opening new vends. As for the vends that have opened in malls, according to rules, only the mall owner can object to this and local residents do not have a role here.”
The official said the new excise policy is being vetted by the law department. “The policy will factor in the opinion of locals in opening new liquor stores,” he added.