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Gehlot's 'culture' lesson leaves Congress red-faced

Renu Mittal | January 29, 2009 00:42 IST

There were red faces in the congress party on Wednesday after the huge embarrassment caused by Rajasthan chief Minister Ashok Gehlot who appeared to be in competition with the sangh parivar and its regressive sister organizations on the issue of moral policing, a phenomena so far confined to the Bharatiya Janata Party-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Shiv Sena. 

No senior leader in the party wanted to react to Ashok Gehlot's comment that he would stop the culture of girls and boys going hand in hand to pubs and malls. The party spokesman Shakeel Ahmed when asked said that he did not know in what context the statement had been made and he would first have to find out.

Shakeel did however react to the chief minister's decision to close down liquor shops saying that he had also announced that a large number of such shops had opened in rural areas close to schools and hospitals.

Ashok Gehlot who is expected in delhi on Thursday morning to attend the meeting of the Congress working committee slated to begin at 1030 hrs is expected to be asked for a clarification by the AICC general secretary in charge of Rajasthan with sources saying that the party has taken a poor view of his comments.

A senior leader said that on the one hand the party is talking about wooing the youth and projecting younger people and on the other its chief ministers are making statements which show a regressive mind set.

Interestingly, the congress chief minister's statement follows closely on the heels of the Sri Ram Sena and its chief attacking young girls in Bangalore who had just come out of a pub. The  Congress has been blaming the BJP government in Karnataka of inaction on the Mangalore pub attack case, but now, a Congress chief minister himself has made a statement that smacks of the same biases that provoked the pub attacks by Sri Ram Sene activists.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said, "We don't want to promote the liquor culture and decisions we take will be to see that the culture of boys and girls going hand-in-hand to pubs and malls for drinking is stopped."

The Rajasthan government announced the cancellation of license of 800 liquor shops in the first round. The Cabinet decided on Wednesday to reduce the number of liquor shops in urban areas in the state to 1,000. After the meeting, a government spokesperson said that number of India-made foreign liquor shops in urban areas will be brought down from present 1,800 to 1,000.

The Rajasthan government also decided to hike the license fee of bars and raise VAT to 20 per cent on country-made-foreign liquor and beer. The decision was taken at a Cabinet meeting presided over by Gehlot.

The Cabinet also approved the proposal of spending 1 per cent of the excise revenue on poor people's free medical care and rehabilitation of makers of country made liquor, officials said. However, the new rate of the license fee is yet to be decided.

The Cabinet said that January 30, the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi [Images], would be included in the list of dry days in the state. Besides this, the Cabinet has also decided to enforce several other curbs and regulations on present set up of sale of liquor and other excise items.

The Gehlot government, since its installation on December 13, has already ordered closure of 156 shops and reduced timings of the sale of liquor through the existing shops by four hours.

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