Elections 2014: Hike in liquor licence to hit political parties

Since wine shop owners, hoteliers have to pay double to renew licences, political parties have to expand their budgets to keep voters happy

Political parties now have to shell out more to lure voters by bribing them with alcohol, as liquor licence fees for hoteliers wine shops have doubled. Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath said during this visit that many political parties complained about cash and liquor being used as bribe to lure voters. 

Representational Pic

From last month, hoteliers had to pay R5.45 lakh to renew their licence, as compared to R3.63 lakh last year. Wine shop owners can renew their licence by paying R9.67 lakh, for which they were paying R6.45 lakh last year.

Niranjan Shetty, chairman, who corresponds with the BMC for the Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR), claims that if the hotel owner had to pay more, he would ultimately charge more to customers to meet the expenses. While Shetty himself is a politician from BJP, he denied that his party bribes voters.

A close watch
Meanwhile, wine shops selling alcohol are also being closely monitored.

A vendor said, “We are not allowed to sell more than two bottles to anyone. While there is no written law, we are being monitored and cops have arrested a few vendors.”

Another wine shop owner said, “We have been asked to provide sale details by the end of the day to the excise department. Normally, the details are handed over once a month, but they are keeping tabs on us.”

Evidently, every political party claimed that they are not involved in bribing voters with alcohol. However, sources from parties said that the increase in licence fees has clearly affected their budgets. Bringing liquor from other states during elections is quite difficult, as the excise department is conducting raids and parties don’t want to take
a chance.

Parties have instructed hoteliers to serve alcohol to their people and adjust all accounts later.

Election high

According to data released, the EC-appointed Election Expenditure Observers have so far seized a total of R118 crore cash in Andhra Pradesh, R18.31 crore in Tamil Nadu, R14.40 in Maharashtra, R10.46 crore in Uttar Pradesh and over R4 crore in Punjab. including numerous other small seizures in rest of the states. Also, the total liquor seized stands at 1.08 crore litres from the wheeler-dealers of nearly all political parties. Influencing voters through illicit liquor is an age-old trick across the country, despite heavy penalties prescribed by the Election Commission against vote-buying. Past elections have seen alcohol being secretly transported in water tankers, and cash stashed in ambulances. 

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