The Narendra Modi government-led central government’s policy is to have very good Centre-state relations, newly sworn-in Minister of State (Independent) for Tourism, IT and Electronics K.J. Alphons said here on Sunday.
The 64-year-old forme bureaucrat and former Left supported legislator (2006-11) is just the second Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader from Kerala to get a berth in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. O. Rajagopal was the first in 1999, in the A.B. Vajpayee-led government.
Meanwhile, in a statement on Sunday, former Chief Minister and veteran CPI-M leader V.S. Achuthanandan came down heavily on Alphons for his change of political affiliation.
“This change of position should have never happened to a fellow traveller of the Left. A fellow traveller of the Left should have never become a tool in the hands of fascists. The love of the country should have stood first and not a post. This should be a lesson when the Left selects candidates,” said Achuthanandan.
Incidentally, it was during the tenure of Achuthanandan as Chief Minister (2006-11) that Alphons became a state legislator supported by the Left grouping.
“The policy of the Modi government is to have excellent Centre-state relations and I am confident that I will be able to do it as I have an excellent relation with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan,” said Alphons at Kochi airport, on his first visit to the state, a week after being sworn-in.
Alphons was received at the Kochi airport by BJP’s Kerala unit President Kummanem Rajasekheran and two former state chiefs and other leaders.
Last Sunday, the day Alphons was sworn-in as a central minister, the state BJP headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram wore a deserted look.
The only celebration in the state was seen at his home, where local BJP workers watched the swearing-in ceremony with his mother.
Alphons, however, brushed aside questions of the Kerala BJP not celebrating his elevation. “The day I was sworn-in, people here were busy with Onam celebrations,” said Alphons.
Another significant absentee at the airport was Tushar Vellapally, chief of Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BJDS), the second biggest ally of the BJP-led NDA.
The BDJS, formed in 2015 by the Hindu Ezhava strongman Vellapally Natesan, father of Tushar, had secured 3.9 per cent of the votes at the 2016 assembly polls, He was hoping the national BJP leadership would give the party some significant posts in the central cabinet.
But so far, it has not got any and like the Kerala BJP leadership, the BDJS also has been cut up over the rather unexpected elevation of the former bureaucrat, who joined the BJP in 2011 and given an independent charge as the MoS.
Starting Sunday, the Kerala BJP leadership is organising a series of receptions for the new minister,the first one later in the day at Moovattupuzha. From there, when Alphons reaches his home town in Kanjirapally in Kottayam, nine road shows are planned.
On Monday, there would be a reception at Kannur when Alphons arrives for a private visit.
The next day, he will take part in a temple function at Kottayam. On September 15, a civic reception at his home town has been planned, followed by a meeting with various bishops.
On September 16, there will also be a reception in the state capital and he is scheduled to leave for Delhi later in the day.
Dismissing speculations that Alphons was given the post as he was a member of the Roman Catholic Church, Kanjirapally diocesan bishop Mar Mathew Arackal told the media on Sunday that Alphons got the post on account of his merit and need not be seen as a policy of the BJP to attract the minority communities.
“Our Church does not have any untouchability to any party and the Church always had good relations with the NDA government in the past also,” said the bishop, who is based at Alphons’ home town Kanjirapally.