In a rare incidence of sorts, the hooch tragedy in Gujarat has put the Narendra Modi government in a war of words with India Inc's liquor baron Vijay Mallya. The businessman held the state's Prohibition policy responsible for the death of almost 150 people in the 'dry' state over past week, but the Modi government pithily asked him to mind his own business.
The deaths have been caused due to consumption of spurious country liquor. Voicing a candid statement over the free availability of liquor in Gujarat and its hypocrisy in ignoring it, Mallya said, "The deaths resulting from the consumption of spurious
alcohol should serve as a wake-up call to all political hypocrites. Narendra Modi knows fully well that every brand of alcohol is available in the state," Mallya said in a statement.
"The farce of prohibition, which cannot be enforced, leads to illegal, unhyegenic and unsupervised production of deadly cocktails which claim innocent lives. It is time that political masters face reality in the interests of people's health," he added.
However, government spokesperson and state health minister Jaynarayan Vyas rebuked Mallya, saying, "This is an internal matter of the Gujarat government and Mr Mallya should avoid making suggestions on what should be done in Gujarat," Vyas told reporters in Gandhinagar.
Citing incidents of similar tragedies of recent months in several states that do not impose Prohibition, specifically Kerala, Karnataka, Delhi and Maharashtra, insisted Prohibition had existed in Mahatma Gandhi's land since the state's birth in 1960 and will remain.
"Unilateral assessment that Prohibition policy was responsible for the tragedy from the largest producer of liquor who has vested interest in the business is unfortunate and coming at the wrong time,"
BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said there is no relation between the hooch tragedy and Prohibition policy. Interestingly though, Mallya has finally brought the state's main Opposition Congress and ruling BJP on the same platform in terms of defending the Prohibition policy. However, Leader of Oppostion in Gujarat Assembly SHaktisinh Gohil said, "Mallya is voicing Modi's desires as the chief minister is keen on removing prohibition to facilitate industries."