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Congress leaders spar over closed Kerala bars

Thiruvananthapuram: Factionalism surfaced in Kerala's ruling Congress as party leaders from rival camps engaged in a spat Monday over the fate of 418 closed bars in the state.

State unit vice president M.M.Hassan told reporters that the party is yet to come out with its decision over the closed bars, but party spokesman Raj Mohan Unnithan questioned his claim.

"The party has directed the government-party coordination committee to resolve this issue and despite it meeting a few times, no decision has been made," said Hassan, known to be close to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.

"The issue is now in the court. The government-party coordination committee has upheld the chief minister's views that bars with adequate infrastructure should be allowed to function. Congress state president V.M. Sudheeran has a very strong anti-liquor stand. The chief minister would wait for an amicable solution," he said.

The new liquor policy has been hanging fire as Sudheeran, citing a CAG report, argued that the 418 bars with poor infrastructure should not be given new licences for operation in this fiscal.

The issue has reached Kerala High Court which last week asked the state government to come up with a new liquor policy, and also directed a two-member government committee to submit its report Aug 26 on the condition of these bars.

Unnithan, who is in the Sudheeran camp, however said it was strange to hear Hassan claim that the party has not made any decision on this issue.

"At the latest general body meeting of the party, all the members except one said that these 418 bars should not be allowed to open. When many wanted the meeting to pass this decision as a resolution to be given to the Chandy government, Sudheeran said that it was not needed and he would convey the feelings of the general body to the government," he said.

Unnithan also argued that the government-party coordination committee is against the party constitution and should be disbanded.

Now all eyes are on the United Democratic Front meeting to be held here Thursday when a decision on these bars, closed since the beginning of this fiscal, will be taken.

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