Ultimately the referee has blown the whistle to check the foul play. After a long blame game, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has intervened and accorded his permission to probe into the so-called ‘Haryana Liquor Scandal‘. The two heavy weight ministers of his Cabinet have been seemingly fighting the wordy battle since a long time now.
One Minister was smelling the no foul play and straightforwardly rejected even the slightest existence of any dirty pool, whereas the other one, smelling and seeing the rotten carcass spreading putridity, wanted a vigilance probe to dig out even the buried skeletons. Now here, it became the ‘naak ka sawaal (a matter of prestige)’ for both the smelling noses. Both these Haryana ministers are the two poles of different power centers and neither of the two has a bowing nature.
One of them is Dushyant Chautala, a young generation representative and backbone of the present BJP-JJP coalition government. He holds the portfolio of Deputy Chief Minister along with his weight-balancing departments including Excise and Taxation Department in lieu of his oxygen supplying support to the BJP-led government. On the other hand is a product of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, a student wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and a fearless, strong and audacious senior BJP leader Anil Vij, a contender of the CM throne, who has never learnt to bend. Currently, Vij is also a senior minister in the coalition government leading the major portfolio of Home and Health, in addition to others.
Chautala denies any liquor scandal in Haryana, whereas Vij , heading the Home Ministry and smelling the foul play, stated that a vigilance probe will be conducted to unearth the facts of the much publicised smuggling of liquor during the lockdown. While addressing a press conference in Chandigarh on 27th August, 2020, Deputy CM Chautala claimed that Haryana Excise Department has recorded the highest revenue collection during COVID-19. Prior to this, the Excise Department had never collected such a high amount of revenue in the first quarter of the year, which reflects that there is no scam.
On the other hand, on the same day, talking to mediapersons, Home Minister Anil Vij emphasised a probe be conducted “in each and every district” on the basis of recommendations suggested by a Special Enquiry Team (SET) in its report in the alleged multi-crore liquor smuggling scam.
Over to lakh alcohol bottles went missing from two godowns in Sonipat district. On 7th May, 2020, Home Minister Anil Vij reportedly said, “5,500 liquor boxes have gone missing from the Sonipat godown, which was under the supervision of the police department. The other godown is being looked after by the State Excise department.”
When asked if there was any nexus of officials involved in the incident, Vij said, “Without connivance, liquor theft cannot take place. Without the connivance of police and excise officials, this theft could not have been possible.” In political circles, Vij’s statement on the involvement of Excise Department officials in the liquor scandal, and his stress over getting the scandal probed in deeply, is being taken as his counter attack on Chautala to equalise Chautala’s previous attack on Vij in 2018.
It is pertinent to mention here that both Vij and Chautala have been at loggerheads since 2018. In response to the allegations leveled in March 2018 by Chautala, the then Indian National Lok Dal MP from the Hisar Lok Sabha seat, regarding an alleged scam in the purchase of medicines for government hospitals when Vij was the Health Minister. Vij had reportedly made personal comments alleging Chautala for drug abuse.
As per media reports, Chautala had filed a complaint before the Hisar Court on the basis of Vij’s said statement to the media in April 2018, which reportedly stated, “Drug abuse is rampant in the area from where Dushyant Chautala comes. I think he has also started taking drugs and he should go to some de-addiction centre.”
After seeing the issue of the theft of liquor bottles highlighted in the public domain, a Special Enquiry Team (SET) was formed the same month to enquire about the scandal. The team gave its report on 30th July to the Home department and pointed out a “huge unauthorised movement of liquor stocks across the state during Covid lockdown period”, after which Vij sent the report as well as his recommendation to CM Manohar Lal Khattar. Finally, the CM has accorded his approval to investigate the matter deeply.
“On my recommendation to get the matter thoroughly investigated by vigilance department, chief minister has accepted it fully and chief secretary has written to vigilance department to probe the entire matter, thoroughly,” Vij told the media on 27th August, 2020.
Congress, the main party in Opposition, had also raised the liquor scam issue, and in a protest march held at Nuh on 13th August, 2020, Kumari Selja, State President of the Congress, sent a memorandum to the Haryana Governor through local administration, demanding an investigation by a sitting Judge of the High Court .
As of now, the vigilance probe has been allowed to look into the alleged multi-crore liquor scam, and the final outcome will reflect and affect the whole scenario. But will the real jinn come out of the sealed bottle or remain therein hidden in the bottom corner, shrinking itself to an invisible size? The question awaits an answer.
Note: The article was originally published here.
About the author: Jag Mohan Thaken is the Editor-in-Chief of India News Front.