Alphons Kannanthanam: Bureaucrat politician takes over as tourism minister
New Delhi: India's new Tourism Minister Alphons Kannanthanam on Monday said his ministry had a "great role" to play in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's dream of creating a new India where all citizens can live with dignity.
The bureaucrat-turned-politician, who was appointed as minister of state for tourism (independent charge) yesterday, refused to sit in his designated chair, waiting for almost an hour for his predecessor, Dr Mahesh Sharma, to arrive and hand him charge of the ministry. The camaraderie was evident as Sharma, who was in a meeting, walked in and the new inductee insisted that his predecessor claim the minister's high backed chair.
"I am so grateful to Maheshji who has been a friend and well-wisher for a long time. He has done a fantastic job in tourism and culture and I am happy that I get to start where he left off," he said. The new minister is known for his strong anti-corruption stance. On Monday, starting on a whole new role, Kannanthanam seemed confident of success. "I am happy to be part of the PM's dream of creating a new India where all Indians can live with dignity and the tourism ministry has a great role to play in this," he said. Spelling out his vision for the future, Kannanthanam said India can take over the world as it is a 5,000-year-old civilization.
"We can go much much beyond incredible India. We want to create a India where we love ourselves, love a clean India and its history. Then we tell the world, come and see us," said the 1979 batch IAS officer.
He also came in for high praise from Sharma, the minister of state for culture as well as environment, who likened him to a "flower" who had been handpicked for the job.
"Today my big brother and friend with whom I have had a familial relationship for more than 30 years and a resident of Noida is taking charge as the tourism minister. I have always taken directions from him. He has created an image of himself as an able administrator," Sharma said, holding Kannanthanam's hand as they sat side by side. "The PM has for this reason handpicked Alphons for the job. He is like a flower that Modi has picked from a bouquet. When the tourism development rate globally is 4.7 per cent India's is 17.3 per cent. I hope next time when these statistics are issued, Alphons would have bettered this," he added. Kannanthanam, a Kerala cadre officer, first shot to limelight during his tenure with the Delhi Development Authority in the 90s and earned the sobriquet 'demolition man' after he got scores of illegal constructions demolished.
He served as the district collector of Kottayam in 1988 and helped make Kottayam town the first 100 percent literate town in India the following year. Kananthanam began his political journey by becoming an independent MLA backed by the CPI(M) in Kerala in 2006, when he resigned from the civil services. He joined the BJP in 2011 and is a member of the BJP National Executive.