THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The bluff of the clueless Congress prohibitionists of poll bound Kerala has been called with the Ommen Chandy government granting fresh foreign liquor bar licences to eight hotels that have overnight upgraded themselves to five star status. This is to overcome the government's half baked and divisive liquor policy .

The granting of new licenses have come in two stages . In the first stage three hotels were given licenses and in the second another five got it . Ten more applications for bar licenses from recently upgraded 5- star hotels are before the government . And if one of them gets a court order in its favor it will not be long before the government grants licenses to the other nine . It might well happen before the state goes to the hustings in a single phase election on May 15 .

Stage by stage dilution of a declared policy to turn the state dry in ten years time is what it is turning out to be. The Opposition LDF which had been so far defensive on alternative liquor policy, has now been quick to point out.

The liquor policy was bound to fail because it was dishonest It was sprung on the public by Chief Minister Ommen Chandy in a piqued political act of one-upmanship with his arch rival in the state party KPCC president VM Sudheeran. Even without the latest round of bar license bonanza, hard figures showed that the UDF liquor policy- -touted as its trump card at the ensuing hustings --was clearly running aground .

It was always more political posturing than public policy . Into the second year of implementation of the policy Kerala has 30 bar attached five star hotels , 33 private clubs,808 beer and wine parlors across the state The government continues to run to full capacity a distillery in Thiruvalla that produces Jawan Rum the most popular rum brand in the state.

The token 10 per cent reduction in the number of sales outlets of the government sector Beverages corporation (BEVCO) has still left the state with 306 outlets in the 14 districts of the state.

It's too early to forget that declaration of liquor policy itself was mired in grave charges of corruption against several ministers in the UDF government . The vigilance court in Trivandrum is slated to give its verdict in one of the many cases involving former Finance Minister KM Mani .

The latest issue of a clutch of bar licenses has led to more charges of corruption against Excise Minister K Babu who is seeking reelection after VM Sudheeran's effort to deny him party ticket came a cropper at Delhi on face of blatant political blackmail by the Chief Minister that he himself would opt out of the contest if any of his Congress cabinet colleagues facing corruption charges was to be denied seat for the assembly .

The KPCC president who is still licking his wounds in the show down with Chief Minister has been quick to see an opportunity in the sanction of new bar licenses and has taken up the issue inside the party and the front . But his move will be a minor irritant for Ommen Chandy who is no mood to relent on anything related to his pet liquor policy and its paradoxical implementation, despite the latest bar license fiasco further strengthening the anti incumbency trend in the assembly polls .