Chennai: Sale of liquor through the State-owned TASMAC shops is one of the major revenue earners for the Tamilnadu and the earnings crossed the Rs 30,000 crore mark and kept increasing with every passing year, barring in 2020 due to Corona induced lockdown.
Introduction of total prohibition will always be a matter of debate and if it is election time, the issue gets more prominence, with political parties vying with each other to implement prohibition in a phased manner.
Ahead of the 6 April Assembly elections, minor players such as the CPI, CPI-M, MDMK–part of the Opposition DMK-led Front, and BJP and PMK, an ally of the ruling AIADMK led alliance, have, in their poll manifestos promised to bring in total prohibition, a controversial subject with the potential of having the rulers always on the backfoot.
But the two Dravidian majors- AIADMK and DMK-which have been playing the tic-tac-toe, succeeding in grabbing power alternately since 1977 – seem not to have taken the issue very seriously this time.
This explains why the AIADMK has promised, the way it did in the 2016 elections, just staggered closure of TASMAC outlets and also why the DMK is silent on the cause.
Perhaps, realising that its promise of a total prohibition led the DMK to miss power by a very low margin in the 2016 elections, the party has now preferred silence to vociferousness.
2021 is a far cry from 2016 in terms of campaign sound and fury. Way back in 2015 when then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was in power, there was hullabaloo about liquor.
The debate on liquor prohibition resumed with renewed vigour, triggering even violent incidents in which students and members of the public were detained.
Sasi Perumal, a Gandhian and anti-liquor crusader, climbed atop a mobile phone tower, demanding total prohibition, and died on 31 July.
Even the mother of MDMK leader Vaiko accompanied by the locals of her village Kalingapatti in Tirunelveli district, ransacked a Tasmac shop.
The State had witnessed anti-liquor crusade at the grassroots level. Sensing the electoral potential of the cause that suddenly caught the imagination of several politicians and feeling the pulse of the people leaning towards eradication of liquor, opposition parties including the DMK, Congress, PMK, MDMK, DMDK jumped on to the bandwagon and held the anti-liquor banner against the Jayalalithaa government.
But, the ruling AIADMK retorted that it (liquor) was the fire still blazing, lit by none other than DMK chief M Karunanidhi.
At a time when the liquor sales was vested with the private players, the Jayalalithaa government in 2003 made it a State owned entity when TASMAC outlets came into being.
Interestingly, ace actor Kamal Haasan’s three-year-old Makkal Needhi Maiam’s manifesto now bluntly rules out prohibition, pragmatic as he is.
So, no wonder, he is not ready to give a promise he can hardly keep. Perhaps, he knows well that liquor issue has never been the deciding factor in the electoral success of either of the two Dravidian majors though on and off the issue and espousers resurface and then retreat into oblivion.