Mumbai: In a major embarrassment to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, his junior cabinet colleagues inaugurated a liquor bar in Ahmednagar, sparking off a controversy in the state's political circles.
Minister of State for Home Ram Shinde of the Bharatiya Janata Party cut the ceremonial ribbon of the liquor bar, while Shiv Sena's Minister of State for Finance Deepak Kesarkar was present at the event, besides leaders from other political parties.
Incidentally, Fadnavis holds the home portfolio and his government has in the past expressed the goal of total prohibition in the state.
While Ahmednagar is the home district of veteran social crusader Anna Hazare and one of the biggest temples, Shri Saibaba in Shirdi, is also located here.
Hazare's Ralegan-Siddhi is already a dry village and there are demands from various quarters, including 600 village councils, to bring Ahmednagar under liquor prohibition like Wardha, Gadchiroli and Chandrapur districts.
Last Saturday evening, Shinde and Kesarkar inaugurated the Kirti Restaurant and Bar at Supanaka on the Ahmednagar-Pune highway.
"I have done nothing wrong; It's a family restaurant and has all the necessary permissions. The bar is owned by the previous owner where this restaurant is situated," Shinde justified following an uproar.
Kesarkar added that the beer bar was already present in the complex since a couple of years, and they (the ministers) merely inaugurated the new family restaurant.
When asked about the development, Revenue, Excise and Agriculture Minister Eknath Khadse -- who issues bar licences, commented that the "ministers could have avoided it".
Congress state spokesperson Sachin Sawant said, "It is unfortunate that a minister of the government inaugurates a beer bar."
Nationalist Congress Party spokesperson Nawab Malik said though it was not illegal, the ministers should have refrained from the event.
"There is already a ban on liquor advertisements...If ministers attend such events, it tantamounts to advertising liquor," Malik said.