Thiruvananthapuram: With the Supreme Court order stopping the Congress-led UDF government from closing down bars before September 30 coming as a political setback to the coalition,senior Front leaders are meeting here to discuss its implications and work out the future course of action.
As soon as the Apex Court issued the order, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy went into a huddle with his senior colleagues to discuss the implications.
Putting up a brave front, Minister for Finance and Law K M Mani said he did not consider the order as a "setback", but its pros and cons would be discussed at the UDF conclave, already scheduled for this evening.
Mani, leader of key UDF partner Kerala Congress(M), said the government had enough time to discuss the matter threadbare and decide on the further course of action.
"We have only the basic details of the order. Let us examine it in detail. We have enough time," he told reporters.
Asked if it did not come as a big setback to the government, he shot back saying "I don't think so."
Industries Minister PK Kunhalikutty, leader of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), said the decision to shut bars was taken by the government after due consideration and implications of the Apex Court order would be thoroughly discussed by the coalition leaders.
In a major policy shift, UDF Government had last month decided to shut all bars attached to hotels below five-star categories, laying the road map for total prohibition within a decade.
These included 418 bars which were not allowed to do business from April this year on the ground they lacked proper facilities.
The Government's decision was not to renew licences for these bars and to close down another 312 bars, attached to hotels below five-star category by 11 PM tonight.
Kerala, which has one of the high per capita consumption of liquor in the country, is bound to suffer a huge revenue loss by way of the decision.
The move against bars was set in motion by KPCC president VM Sudheeran who took a tough stand against renewing licences of closed bars, over-ruling resistance from within Congress and sections of the UDF.
In a surprise move, Chandy, who was depicted as the proponent of a practical approach on the issue, went further, unveiling the new liquor policy aiming at sharply reducing availability of liquor.
It came as a stunning move that even the LDF opposition found it difficult to criticise it, though there had been isolated political voices which cast doubts on the wisdom of such a decision.