Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision on Sunday to induct former bureaucrat K.J. Alphons into his council of ministers has left the BJP’s long-standing leaders out in the cold.
Not surprisingly, the state head office of the Bharatiya Janata Party here looked deserted on Sunday when Alphons took oath even though Kerala was getting its first representation in the three-year-old Modi government.
But there was celebration in Alphons’ hometown Manimala in Kottayam district.
Alphons becomes the second BJP leader from Kerala to get a berth in the union cabinet after O. Rajagopal, who was a Minister of State in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government (1999-2004).
Rajagopal was elected to the Rajya Sabha for two terms from 1992 from Madhya Pradesh. Now, those in the know of things say Alphons too will be elected to the Rajya Sabha.
Alphons is only six years old in the BJP, which he joined in 2011. He was earlier aligned with the Left Democratic Front in Kerala.
Alphons, though not a frontline leader in the Kerala BJP, is popular in Delhi where he came to be known as the ‘demolition man’ for knocking down 14,310 illegal buildings when he worked as a Commissioner in the Delhi Development Authority.
At that time, he stood his ground even after his wife and children came under attack.
Ever since news surfaced that there would be a reshuffle and expansion of the Modi ministry, the names that figured prominently as probables from Kerala were actor-turned-Rajya Sabha member Suresh Gopi, state BJP President Kummanem Rajasekheran and former state BJP President V. Muraleedharan.
No one even in the party circles or the media took Alphons’ name.
One reason why Modi and BJP President Amit Shah may have opted for Alphons is to warn the warring BJP leadership in the state that they needed to get their act together to take on the entrenched Left and the Congress.
But the state BJP leadership put up a brave face on Sunday.
Kummanem Rajasekheran said in a statement: “Alphons joined the BJP fed up with the corrupt ways of the Left and the Congress. This is an Onam gift for Kerala and an appreciation for his various positions he has taken.”
Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said he does not think any single leader in the Kerala BJP was happy about Alphons becoming a minister.
There are some who think that Alphons has been made a minister to appease the numerically strong Christian community in Kerala.
In June, Amit Shah met leading Church heads in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram to say that a healthy relationship with the Christian community was essential for the party to make further inroads in Kerala.