Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar, always has a hidden agenda. Nothing he does is truly democratic, principled or purely humanitarian. Like any self-serving political animal he calculates the advance of his ambitions meticulously and methodically. Not all of his moves work, as he discovered from the results of the Lok Sabha 2014 elections when he prematurely ditched the NDA(which he had partnered since 1998) to take on a secular mantle against NarendraModi, ,. However, despite setbacks, he simply reboots his strategies and does not lose sight of his single minded goal, namely, of reaching the very top of any heap of which he may be a part, irrespective of whom he destroys, humiliates or uses in the process, which foe he aligns with or which ideology he uses or discards at will.
The common politician has usually couched self-interest within homilies and slogans to please an often-gullible public. Having stated this, one cannot grudge Nitish Kumar kudos for having the courage and firmness to implement his election promise of implementing prohibition and enforcing a total ban on liquor in Bihar. Just as withdrawal symptoms wrack the body of a habitual tippler, the state too will have to rework its fiscal policies and find ways of doing away with or finding other means to acquire the hefty income from excise on liquor that every state excepting Gujarat has found almost impossible to sacrifice.
Many would remember the fierce campaign by women in Andhra Pradesh in the 90s after an adult literacy campaign motivated them to demand the closure of roadside liquor vends. Massive processions, without any political leadership, destruction of booze shops, blockades and spontaneous marches demanding freedom from alcohol, which for them meant freedom from domestic violence, penury and sickness, resulted in the newly elected TDP government declaring prohibition in the state. Bootleggers flourished, MLAs smuggled liquor and ultimately the policy was revoked.
Jayalalithaa, CM of Tamil Nadu, is following in Bihar's footsteps by promising to introduce prohibition if re-elected. All this shows that women voters have begun to count, and women's concerns for the health, economic stability and physical security of girls and women in their families is being recognized as strongly linked to issues arising out of alcohol abuse by menfolk. Political rulers have begun to heed that. Finally.
What is curious is the silence of normally vocal liquor manufacturers and corporates whose lives and business-networking after 7 pm rely on alcohol. Lawyers and media men who cannot do without their evening peg are largely silent too. Every time a participant in discussions on television about the latest rape brings up alcohol as a cause, that line of argument gets stalled. Anchors have whispered during advertising breaks that the media will not run with that subject because most journalists hit the bottle in their cars in the parking lots of their offices after 8 pm.
Is it possible that since it is a declared 'secularist' that has mooted prohibition in Bihar, it is been treated gently? Possibly if the political heads of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Punjab had initiated this policy there would have been mighty loud protests in favour of free will and against bans. The health benefits of drinking and how development has to be funded from the income from alcohol sales would have received pages of column space. Indeed, a liberal, progressive, secular nation would have been considered at peril if any BJP-led state had dared to venture into the tough territory of introducing prohibition. However, best of luck to Nitish Kumar, may his policy succeed.