Amaravati: The row over alleged sale of cheap brands of liquor in Andhra Pradesh has triggered a war of words between YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) government and main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
While the TDP has been attacking the government for promoting consumption of liquor, the ruling party has hit back saying the brands available now were the same introduced by the previous TDP government.
The TDP, which has been protesting over the issue both in the legislature and outside, on Wednesday threatened a public stir while the YSRCP government rubbished the allegations and launched a counter-attack.
Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy on Wednesday categorically denied that his government is promoting cheap liquor brands in the state and alleged that the brands in circulation now were the same introduced by the previous TDP government.
Replying to a debate on liquor policy in the Assembly, he slammed the TDP for holding his government responsible for the brands which were introduced during the TDP regime headed by Nara Chandrababu Naidu.
Denying the sale of cheap liquor, he said the TDP was making baseless allegations over the recent deaths in Jangareddygudem town of West Godavari district. He reiterated that the deaths were natural and not related to illicit liquor.
The TDP has been staging protests in both the Assembly and Council for more than a week, demanding debate on the deaths of 19 persons. The opposition legislators are getting suspended every day for stalling the proceedings. They have been staging protests outside the Legislature complex and two days ago they even poured liquor on a portrait of the Chief Minister as part of their protest over what they call ‘J-brands’ of liquor.
The TDP leaders have also made it a major issue by targeting Jagan Mohan Reddy for going back on his election promise to enforce total prohibition.
With the main opposition also mounting pressure by taking the issue to the streets, the Chief Minister spoke in the Assembly on Wednesday, denying the allegations and launching a counter-attack.
Jagan Mohan Reddy said that the brands which the TDP is now talking about were all introduced during its own rule. “Our brands are Navaratnalu and all liquor brands belong to Chandrababu Naidu,” he said referring to a host of welfare schemes being implemented by the YSRCP government under Navaratnalu.
Alleging that 254 new brands of liquor were introduced by Chandrababu Naidu government, he said brands like ‘President Medal’, ‘Governor Choice’, ‘Boom Boom Beer’, ‘Powerstar 999’, and ‘Russian Romanov’ were all Naidu’s gifts. He also remarked that Chandrababu Naidu’s surname Nara should be changed to ‘Sara’ (liquor).
He said his government did not issue permission for a single new distillery while the previous government issued permission for seven distilleries between 2014 and 2019.
The Chief Minister also stated that the tests at SGS lab have established that there are no hazardous contents in the liquor available in the market. On the TDP’s contrary claims, he said the samples given by them might have been tampered with.
Meanwhile, the TDP legislators vowed to continue their agitation both inside the Assembly and outside till the YSRCP government stopped hazardous cheap liquor brands as well as illicit liquor.
The TDP lawmakers took out a protest rally led by party General Secretary Nara Lokesh outside the House holding placards and raising slogans against the ongoing liquor deaths in the state. They said there were unpermitted chemicals in ‘J-brand’ liquor that were killing the people and destroying lakhs of families.
The TDP members held Jagan Mohan Reddy totally responsible for the liquor deaths, which were nothing but ‘Government murders’. For the sake of easy money and hundreds of crores of commissions, the Chief Minister was using benamis to manufacture and sell aJ-brands’ of poisonous liquor. Urea and ammonia present in liquor brands were causing drinkers to suffer from multiple organ failures, they alleged.
Nara Lokesh said when they were fighting on behalf of the people, the ruling party members were using abusive language against them. The Deputy Chief Minister has not tendered any apology in the House for using unparliamentary words, he said.
The TDP lawmakers took strong objection to the house arrests of their party leaders all over the state just for trying to register their protest. The ruling party was not ready to debate illicit liquor and J-brands even for a minute in the House. Was the Chief Minister afraid that his benami liquor empire would get exposed if there was debate in the Legislature?, they asked.