New Delhi, Jun 12 (UNI) The BJP today accused the Congress Party of "quietly" working towards ''reopening'' single digit lottery trade which was banned in 1998 by the NDA government following protests from different quarters.
BJP General Secretary Vijay Goel, who had spearheaded the movement against the lottery business for almost 10 years before it was 'partially' banned, told UNI that the Congress was now making efforts to revive lottery business to oblige 'lottery mafia' from which it had been getting ''heavy sums.'' Mr Goel based his allegations over the manner in which the agenda of the officers level meeting held yesterday by Home Minister Shivraj Patil, was set which was 'not called to ban the lottery trade but to evaluate the pros and cons to open the lottery.' Giving background of the 'officers level meetings', the BJP leader said the single digit lottery was first banned by the Gujral Government through an Ordinance which was later formalised through a Bill in 1998 by the NDA government.
Since the Bill to this effect was welcomed by all parties, it was decided to bring another bill to put a total ban on sale of multi-digit lotteries. It was, however, opposed by some small states, particularly the north-eastern states on the plea that it was helping them earn a lot of revenue. It was also suggested that the state governments which were in favour of the ban should also prohibit sale of lotteries of other states in their territories.
The Bill was then referred to the Standing Committee headed by Mr Pranab Mukherjee. Mr Goel was also one of its members.
In 2003, a meeting of CMs was convened to arrive at a consensus to put a total ban of all kinds of lotteries as it was realised that very often only the poor were becoming victims of the trade.
Mr Goel said the officers level meetings were part of the discussions to 'ban' the lottery, not 'to regulate the lottery' as given out by the Congress. He alleged that the Congress seemed to be buckling under the pressure from the lottery mafia and changed its stance over the issue. He said the agenda of the last meeting was 'ban on all lotteries". But yesterday's meeting's agenda was 'to regulate the lottery'.
Besides north eastern states, six states which were still allowing lottery trade were Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Kerala, West Bengal and Karnataka.
Mr Goel threatened to launch another agitation if any effort was made to reopen lottery business. He said the BJP had made a commitment to the people in its manifesto that it would stand for total ban on lottery trade.
Rejecting oft repeated pleas by Congress and some states that the trade was providing jobs to thousands of people, Mr Goel said if that was the case the UPA Government should allow open trade of ganja and charas that would also help many to get a job.
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