You can take a man out of his familiar haunt but can you take the haunt out of the man? Not, at least, for newly appointed Tourism Minister K.J. Alphons, a former civil servant and a regular at the India International Centre (IIC), the capital’s intellectual and cultural hub.
Alphons, who was inducted into the government by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday and assumed charge on Monday, was back that same evening at the IIC where he is known to be a habitue.
According to the staff, he spent some time, met up with old friends, and posed for photos with familiar staff who were thrilled to find one of their regular visitors become a minister.
He was back again on Tuesday evening, went around the main lounge shaking hands and hugging friends, before settling down for a coffee with an aide. He was mindful of keeping his new retinue of security and ministerial assistants at a respectable distance.
Alphons, a former District Collector of Kottayam in Kerala, which he was famous for making into India’s first 100 percent literate town, and then earned renown for demolishing over 10,000 illegal buildings in Delhi with impunity as Commissioner of Delhi Development Authority (DDA) — otherwise notorious for its corruption — joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2011.
He was hoping to get a ticket to run for Parliament from New Delhi constituency in the last Lok Sabha election, but that did not happen. His name then figured among those in contention to become Delhi Lt Governor after Najeeb Jung resigned in December 2016. But again his hopes were dashed.
He spent long hours at IIC, reading in the library or discussing national affairs with retired bureaucrats and other friends over cups of coffee. His friends speak of him as a a man who can get things done and will be a driver of Modi’s policies in the government.
Besides having independent charge of tourism, he is also minister of state for electronics and IT.