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'At 6 pm, PM Narendra Modi Called me to Say 'Alphons You Take Oath Tomorrow', and Next Day We Had Dhoklas for Breakfast'

Going through the list of missed calls, it occurred to him that someone in the national capital was desperately trying to get in touch with him in the all of two-odd hours his phone was switched off while he was air bourne.

Suhas Munshi, Aishwarya Kumar

Updated:September 13, 2017, 7:56 AM IST
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'At 6 pm, PM Narendra Modi Called me to Say 'Alphons You Take Oath Tomorrow', and Next Day We Had Dhoklas for Breakfast'
File photo of tourism minister Alphons Kannanthanam. (Getty Images)
New Delhi: Kannantham Alphons switched on his mobile phone after his flight taxied to a halt at Kampe Gowda International Airport, Bangalore. The connecting flight to Calicut would leave in an hour where he was to give a lecture next day at a function organised by the Art of Living Foundation.

Going through the list of missed calls, it occurred to him that someone in the national capital was desperately trying to get in touch with him in the all of two-odd hours his phone was switched off while he was air bourne.

“I thought I’ll reach Calicut, finish my speech and then return the calls. Then when I was about to board the plane, I received a call from the PM’s Officer on Special Duty saying that the PM wanted to discuss political violence in Kerala,” Alphons told News 18.

It was a 50-year-old subject, Alphons replied, which could perhaps wait another day. Delivering a lecture to a lot of youngsters was perhaps more important. “But the OSD told me come to Delhi by the next flight.”

It was odd that the Prime Minister wanted to discuss an old political phenomenon a day before the big event – the Cabinet reshuffle, Alphons thought while sipping coffee at India International Centre in New Delhi.

At about 6 pm he received a call from the Prime Minister. “Alphons, you take oath tomorrow. And join me for breakfast tomorrow at 9 am.” That was it. In two sentences the PM delivered what Alphons describes a “big shock.”

Next morning Alphons reached 7 Lok Kalyan Marg with all new ministers to have breakfast – Gujarati Dhoklas, cookies and tea – with the PM.

That's how most of the new ministers who joined Modi government came to know of their nomination to the Union council.

“It is a big shock from which I’m still recovering, one week after assuming my new responsibilities,” Alphons said smiling, sitting in his office on Parliament Street.

But then, that's how turn of events "just like this" have surprised him to open up new vistas in life. For instance, the decision to contest assembly election in Kerala.

He was a noted bureaucrat who had demolished, as he 24 years later still remembers, “fourteen thousand three hundred and ten illegal buildings,” as the chief of Delhi Development Authority.

But then “just like that” he decided to join politics while he still had a good eight years left in service. A friend MA Baby, a politburo member of CPI(M), introduced him to the then general secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, and told him that Alphons wanted to contest from– Kanjirappally.

“In 10 seconds he agreed. And 32 days later I was elected an MLA,” Alphons says, giving credit to Vijayan, with whom he still shares a good rapport, of introducing him to politics.

Though, as he himself admitted, he’s still recovering from a shock, Alphons doesn’t have the luxury of time with him. He has been given responsibilities as MoS (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Tourism and MoS in the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. And then there are general elections due in one-and-a-half years.

He’s working to expand his party’s work in Meghalaya and then there is the state of Kerala itself, his own state. And Alphons says he can’t wait “to get cracking.”
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