New Delhi: KJ Alphons, a bureaucrat who has joined Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government as Minister of State for Tourism and IT, said today that he would act like a "bridge" between the Christian community and the BJP. He also asserted that the Modi government is inclusive and "doesn't really have a problem" with beef being consumed in his state Kerala and in Goa, which the BJP rules.
- KJ Alphons said there's a lot of potential in the tourism sector
- Getting an important ministry a "pleasant surprise," said Mr Alphons
- He was nicknamed "Demolition Man" of Delhi for razing illegal buildings
"The Modi government has been so inclusive... he (PM Modi) has made it so very clear... believe in whatever you want, I will take care of you, I will protect you. There is not one incident of the burning of a church or mosque... The PM has done a fantastic job," Mr Alphons told NDTV in an interview after formally taking charge of his ministries today.
He had to wait almost an hour for his predecessor Mahesh Sharma to arrive for the formal handover and refused to even sit in his chair until then, news agency PTI reported.
A Kerala Christian, Mr Alphons has parried many questions about being a part of a government that has tough rules against beef and cow slaughter in state where it is in power and that is often accused of going soft on cow vigilantes.
Referring to Goa, the seaside state where BJP chief minister Manohar Parrikar recently announced he would ensure there was no beef shortage, Mr Alphons commented that there was no "food code" for states.
"In Goa, ruled by BJP, people continue to eat beef. Kerala will also continue to eat beef, BJP doesn't really have a problem with that," said the ex-bureaucrat.
The 64-year-old former "Demolition Man" of Delhi -- a superhero name he earned after ordering the razing of illegal buildings -- shared that he felt "on top of the world" and "thrilled" at his new assignment. Mr Sharma remarked that PM Modi had handpicked Mr Alphons "from a bouquet like a flower".
Many see a strategy to win over a large community in Kerala, one of the southern states where the BJP is trying to make inroads. It is "very important" that a Christian is a part of the ministry, Mr Alphons said.