At election time, one can see Muzilal Salim Khan of Dhobi Talao, a crowded street in south Mumbai, in and around the local office of a leading political party.
His job is to pick up bottles of cheap liquor from specific outlets and transport them to demand points.
“Maal lekar ane ka aur batana jither jither mangaya hein,” (Bring money along and tell me where all to deliver), said Khan. Nowadays, he is also in charge of organizing venues where party workers and supporters can join in for a drinking session.
“Yeh to aise rahega chunav ke din tak” (It will remain like this till the election day), he added.
Khan is just one of the hundreds of local liquor supply coordinators who are active during election time, and their capital is just the contacts with liquor distributors.
One for the party: A liquor shop in Faridabad, Haryana. Liquor companies post peak sales of cheap brands during elections. Rajkumar / Mint
This is one of the occasions when liquor companies post peak sales of cheap brands. Several distilleries release additional stock to distributors across the country during elections. While the delivery is made directly at wholesale counters with huge discounts, the bills are generated under the licence of retail outlets in the respective towns.
“Most of such bulk orders are often placed by political parties or by the candidates themselves,” said a senior executive with a liquor company based in New Delhi. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said there will be a 20-25% increase in sales of low-cost liquor as well as regional brands during the elections.
“Though there is high sales volume (during elections), it may not give equal profits as the orders are often taken with huge discounts,” said a liquor wholesaler in Mumbai, who also didn’t want to be identified.
There are also specialized services offered by some local distributors, who supply directly at specific locations in line with requirements of “clients” during the election period. Several small liquor companies also offer customized 90-100ml sachets.
The free supply of liquor by political parties to woo voters mostly takes place in rural areas through illegal channels, said a vendor at Shapur Wine Stores, a large retail outlet at Dadar in Mumbai.
“No reputed liquor company would expect a rise in sales during election time as such bulk deals will not happen in the duty-paid segment,” said Vijay Rekhi, president, United Spirits Ltd, the country’s largest liquor company by sales.
“As the excise department has beefed up their vigil, there is a drastic reduction in illegal liquor trade, of late,” said another liquor industry executive.
The Election Commission has instructed the excise departments in states to keep a watch on unauthorized transportation and stocking of liquor, apart from the mandatory closure of liquor shops 48 hours prior to voting and also on the day the votes are taken up for counting.
In Maharashtra, the second largest producer of molasses and alcohol in the country after Uttar Pradesh, the excise department has instructed its district level “flying-squads” to keep a strict vigil on unauthorized transportation of liquor, and also to seize stocks found in party offices and residences of political workers and candidates.
These instructions are repeated 48 hours before the election date along with closure of retail outlets in line with the Election Commission’s orders, said A.B. Ghatol, a joint commissioner at the Maharashtra state excise department.
Compiled by Mint reporters