A day after the Bihar government announced 'toddy' will be kept out of purview of the proposed stringent law against liqour consumption in the state, senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi on Sunday welcomed the move but took potshots at Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on the issue.
In a sarcastic comment, Sushil Modi said Kumar made the U-turn apparently out of fear of the RJD withdrawing support from his government on the issue.
"Nitish is so drunk in power that he thinks nobody can bend him, but the BJP, LJP supremo Ramvilas Paswan, Hindustani Awam Party Morcha president Jitan Ram Manjhi and RJD chief Lalu Prasad have applied enough pressure on the Chief Minister to force him to make U-turn on toddy ban," he said in a statement.
Modi claimed the Chief Minister has made a retreat apparently under the fear the RJD may withdraw support to him if he persisted with his stand on 'toddy', a livelihood issue with a section of Dalit community.
The senior BJP leader wants the RJD leadership to apply pressure on the state government to remove a proposal in the excise bill that stipulates arrest of all adult members in a family in the event of liqour bottles being recovered from a household or its compound.
He termed the measure "draconian to say the least".
Trying to make an illustration, the former deputy chief minister asked if someone throws an empty liqour bottle in the bungalow of the RJD supremo, then will he, with other family members including former chief minister Rabri Devi and two minister sons, be arrested and put behind bars?
"Is it fair to punish wife and aged parents, if an adult member commits crime like keeping a liqour bottle in the household? does not the stringent law lead Bihar to ancient times?" Modi asked.
There is provision for imprisonment for few years for commission of crimes like rape and dacoity, but possession of liqour bottle can land in life imprisonment, besides confiscation of house, the senior BJP leader wondered.
Sushil Modi accused Kumar of adopting double-standard on the liquour issue.
He said though the Chief Minister describes liquour business illegal and goes from one state to another to "seek publicity" on prohibition, "he doesn't mind production of liqour in the state even under the new legislation which bars consumption, marketing and production of liquour altogether".
Manorama Devi, suspended JD(U) MLC, was jailed after liquour bottles were found at her house in Gaya few months back during a search by the police in connection with a case.
Excise and Prohibition Minister Abdul Jalil Mastan had on Saturday told the media 'toddy' will be kept out of the purview of the proposed excise bill which was tabled in the Assembly on Friday, the inaugural day of five-day monsoon session of the state Legislature.
Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswai Yadav and Education Minister too had said there was no ban proposed on 'toddy' under the proposed excise bill for the time being.
Meanwhile, LJP supremo Ramvilas Paswan said, "Toddy is an agriculture-related activity and the drink being a natural one. So the ban on it should be removed on permanent basis."
The Union Food and Consumer Protection Minister came down heavily on Chief Minister Kumar for proposing to send all adult members to jail in the event of liqour bottle being found in a house.
He wondered whether in such a scenario Kumar or state government will take responsibility for raising minor children of the affected family to ensure their education.