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Liquor Flows In Dry Bihar During Polls

May 21, 2024 14:15 IST

Four times more liquor has been seized in the 2024 election than during the 2019 polls.

Kindly note the images have only been published for representational purposes. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Shahzad and Vinod (names changed), both illicit liquor traders, are delighted by the high demand to supply liquor in dry Bihar during the current Lok Sabha elections.

"Demand for liquor was never so high as it is at this time. We are unable to meet the high demand. Unlike the last two elections (the 2019 Lok Sabha and 2020 assembly polls), there is unbelievable demand this time," says Shahzad.

"We are likely to make a record profit," add Shahzad and Vinod who operate their illicit business from an upmarket area in Patna.

There are scores of such liquor traders active across Bihar. Some of them smuggle liquor from outside the state, some manufacture hooch locally.


Photograph: Reuters

Despite total prohibition in the state, liquor is freely distributed in Bihar's villages and towns. Leaders across political parties use alcohol to woo voters and keep their workers and supporters active during the hectic campaigning, especially in heatwave conditions.

Officials of Bihar's Prohibition and Excise Department and the state police have seized more than 450,000 litres of liquor in the state till May 15, after the Model Code of Conduct came into force in mid-March.

The current seizure of liquor is more than four times the seizure of alcohol during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The excise department and police have also seized thousands of litres of desi mahua-made liquor during this period.

The authorities have seized more than 80 liquor-laden trucks during this period.

A senior police officer told this reporter that the liquor was smuggled to the state before the election and stored to meet the high demand during the polls.

"The seized liquor is hardly 10 to 20 percent of what has been smuggled," the police officer says.

"We have received reports that politicians have been distributing liquor bottles during the campaign and especially a day ahead of the polls on a large scale," says the police officer, adding, "But we cannot take action against anyone because it is election time."

Photograph: ANI Photo

This is the second Lok Sabha election in Bihar after total prohibition was imposed in April 2016, when the manufacture, storage, transportation, sale and consumption of alcohol was banned in the state.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who took credit for prohibition in Bihar during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls to reach out to women voters, is silent on the issue this election.

The mention of 'sharab bandi' (prohibition) is missing from the Janata Dal-United president's election campaign.

More than 200 people have died in a series of hooch tragedies in the last two years in the so-called dry state.

Another reason for Nitish Kumar's silence on his prohibition policy is that his allies -- the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Hindustani Awam Morcha and the Lok Janshakti Party-Ram Vilas -- have reservations against the liquor ban.

The BJP, till early January 2024, used to attack Nitish Kumar for failed prohibition but after joining hands with him on January 28, 2024, the party has gone mum on the issue.

The opposition Mahagathbandhan (comprising the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Congress and the Left parties) has repeatedly alleged that prohibition has failed in the state.

Mahagathbandhan leaders allege that liquor is freely available in the state and the sale of alcohol is a lucrative trade in urban and rural areas.

Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/