Congress government in Kerala is engaged in a multi-pronged mission to blunt the protest of the Catholic Church, which has gone into an agitation mood after the government watered down its new liquor policy.
Silencing the Catholic Church is very crucial for the government led by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy because his rival and party state president V M Sudheeran enjoys the backing of the Church in the issue. Sudheeran had a history of attacking the government from Church platform over liquor policy.
Church has threatened to launch an indefinite strike against the government move to give beer and wine licence for all bar hotels which have been either closed or facing that threat in the new liquor policy.
On Saturday, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy met Bishop Remegius Inchananiyil, who is the chairman of the anti-liquor committee of Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council, a common platform of Catholic Bishops in Kerala. After meeting the bishop in Kozhikode, Chandy said there was no change in the government stand for total prohibition within next one decade. The bishop has been apprised about the government stand. I was satisfied with the meeting, said Chandy.
While Chandy resorted to a friendly meeting with the Bishop, his cabinet colleagues went for direct attack against the Church and exposing the chinks in its anti-liquor movement. In this attack also, the government has fielded ministers from Catholic community.
Labour minister Shibu Baby John said the leaders of the KCBC forum for anti-liquor movement were speaking in the language of street goons. “They are not conducting any anti-liquor drive. Its leaders are behaving like political leaders. Their anti-liquor agitation has been a complete failure. They should go for enlightening the people against the evil effects of liquor instead of demanding closure of bars,’’ said John.
Another minister from Catholic community K C Joseph had stated that the KCBC should turn the mirror on them to see which community has major interest in liquor business and consumption.
He said the KCBC should go focus on campaign to bring down liquor consumption, instead of advising the government to change its liquor policy.
In Kerala, Catholics has a major stake in the liquor hotel business along with the Hindu Ezhava community. A large chunk of liquor consumers belongs to Catholic community, whose members are known to celebrate every family event with liquor supply.