Jaipur, Jan 29: Sri Ram Sena may have found an unlikely ally in Congress's Ashok Gehlot. If members of the right-wing outfit thought it fit to bash up girls and boys at a pub in Mangalore, the Rajasthan chief minister's stand was to condemn pub culture as a whole.
Gehlot is determined to reverse his BJP predecessor Vasundhara Raje's “liberal'' policy of allowing pubs to mushroom and booze shops to remain open until 11pm in the tourist state.
Gehlot also wants to take the moral axe to PDA (public display of affection). Talking to newsmen at the PCC office on the sidelines of a meeting of party leaders, the chief minister said, “An onlooker may enjoy watching young boys and girls moving around arm-in-arm but it is not the culture of Rajasthan.''
Though it was not clear what steps Gehlot might take to keep lovers from locking arms — a crusade one associates more with Shiv Sena goons who routinely vandalize card shops and go on the rampage on Valentine's Day — there appears to be a clear possibility of increased moral policing in the state that has so far projected a friendly face and managed to attract a record number of western tourists.
``The excise policy of the BJP government, which was based on the premise of promoting pub culture and wine culture, is being thoroughly reviewed and reversed,'' Gehlot said. He added that the Raje government had plans to set up beer bars in shopping malls and shopping centres which would have had a bad influence on the younger generation.
``They (read Raje) had plans to open beer bars in shopping malls which would have given some kind of legitimacy and social acceptability to the liquor culture in society,'' he said. The government will now tweak the excise policy keeping in mind social concerns, the chief minister added.
He said liquor companies had been competing with each other to put up flashy signboards to attract the young and unabashedly promoting a lifestyle encouraging booze, which the new regime would not tolerate.
In his spirited battle against booze, the Gehlot government has already announced a higher VAT on liquor and beer.
``Besides, we will bring down the number of liquor shops to around 1,000. We have closed down over 960 shops, including those near religious places and schools,'' Gehlot said. The government has also reduced the timing of liquor shops by four hours. Shops now close at 8pm. It will also use public notice boards to spread the message about the ill-effects of alcohol.