TN hooch tragedy: Toll touches 58; BJP slams Cong’s ‘stoic’ silence; issue being ‘politicised’: DMK

NEW DELHI, Jun 24 : The death toll in the Kallakurichi hooch tragedy climbed to 58 on Monday as the political slugfest escalated over the issue with BJP training its guns against Congress, questioning its “stoic silence” over the deadly episode in Tamil Nadu where ‘DMK-INDI Alliance’ is in power.
The BJP’s Tamil Nadu unit also petitioned the state Governor for a CBI probe into the matter and the Edappadi K Palaniswami-led AIADMK staged statewide protests, demanding Chief Minister M K Stalin’s explanation over the illicit arrack deaths.
The ruling DMK hit back at the AIADMK and BJP, accusing them of politicising the issue and falsely linking its leaders with the sale of illicit arrack.
Meanwhile, state Health Minister Ma Subramanian said 58 persons have died so far after consuming illicit liquor, nearly a week after the tragic incident at Kallakurichi’s Karunapuram locality.
As many as 219 persons have been admitted to various hospitals so far. Out of 219, 58 persons including 3 women and a transgender have died, Subramanian told reporters in Chennai.
Stepping up the attack over the incident, BJP chief J P Nadda wrote to Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, questioning the “stoic silence” of his party on the tragedy and said, “certain issues require us to rise above and beyond party lines and the welfare and safety of the SC, ST community is one such issue.”
The tragedy was entirely a “man-made disaster”, Nadda said in his letter to Kharge and alleged a nexus between the ruling “DMK-INDI alliance” dispensation and illicit liquor mafia as the reason behind the “worst ever” such incident.
The ghastly images of burning funeral pyres from Karunapuram in the aftermath of Tamil Nadu’s “worst ever spurious liquor consumption tragedy has shaken the conscience of the entire nation”, he said.
“Kharge ji, as you know Karunapuram is largely populated by the Scheduled Castes, who face several challenges due to poverty and discrimination in Tamil Nadu. In light of this, I was shocked that when such a huge disaster has taken place, the Congress party led by you has maintained a stoic silence on this,” the BJP president said.
Nadda asked Kharge to press upon its alliance partner DMK’s government in Tamil Nadu to go for a CBI probe and ensure the “immediate removal” of State Prohibition and Excise Minister S Muthusamy from his post.
Today is the “time to truly walk the talk on ‘nyay’ (justice) and not reduce it to a catchy campaign slogan, deployed for the launch of a failed political dynast. Today, the people of Tamil Nadu and the entire SC community are witnessing the double speak of the Congress party and particularly of Rahul Gandhi and leaders of the INDI Alliance,” the BJP chief said.
Suddenly, all the “sanctimonious preachings” of Rahul Gandhi about the Constitution and ensuring the welfare and rights of the SC/ OBC community have stopped, he charged.
Nadda alleged there seems to be “a penchant” for illegal liquor business and “sharab ghotala” (liquor scam) amongst various constituents of the opposition’s INDIA bloc and asked Kharge to “purge” his party’s allies of such elements as these “proclivities” damage the nation and society.
The BJP’s Tamil Nadu unit petitioned state Governor R N Ravi seeking a CBI probe into the matter and urged him to advise Chief Minister Stalin to drop Muthusamy from the cabinet, holding him ‘responsible’ for the episode.
At Kallakurichi, AIADMK chief and Leader of Opposition (LoP) Palaniswami led a massive protest against the ruling DMK over the hooch tragedy. The party held protests across the state.
The former CM said the people’s state of disorder and the turbulent scenes being witnessed in Karunapuram over the distilling and sale of spurious liquor, deserved a response from the chief minister.
“Stalin has an obligation to give an explanation for the spurious liquor tragedy and the time will soon come” for the chief minister to reply, he said.
The DMK, in response to the attack from the AIADMK and BJP, alleged they were trying to ‘politicise’ the Kallakurichi hooch tragedy to get ‘political mileage.’
Listing the steps taken by the state government over the hooch deaths, DMK organisation secretary, R S Bharathi said his party would go to the people with facts of the matter and the government’s stringent action and slammed the motivated propaganda of the AIADMK and BJP.
Pointing to the government setting up a one-man commission led by a retired judge, he expressed confidence truth will emerge.
“Everyday new information is emerging,” and there are information/reports that persons belonging to the BJP and AIADMK sold illicit arrack.
Answering a question, Bharathi said Youth Welfare Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin has already visited Kallakurichi and that the Chief Minister would make a visit soon. “Assembly is in session,” he added.
He hit out at Palaniswami for ‘enacting a drama’ on the matter though the government was discussing it in the state Assembly.
On the demand for the CBI probe, he said the Central agency did not take swift action in several cases including the ‘Gutkha case,’ and the seizure of Rs 570 crore from containers in the run-up to the 2016 Assembly election.

However, the state police (CB-CID) has taken immediate action on the hooch tragedy, he asserted.
“The reason for them seeking the CBI probe is to cause diversion and to try to create some problem.”
He wondered if CBI probed similar cases including in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. (PTI)

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