‘No time for tears’: Centre and state will rebuild Kerala together, says Union minister KJ Alphons
KJ Alphons, Union minister of state (independent charge) for tourism, has been the main connect between the BJP-led Centre and CPI(M)-ruled Kerala since the worst floods in a century struck the state. Hailing from Kottayam, Alphons well understands the scale of the devastation in Kerala.
He accompanied Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Rajnath Singh during their aerial survey of Kerala and has ensured that the Centre and the state worked in tandem at a difficult time. Alphons was, however, highly critical of the Opposition Congress for raking up controversies at an ‘inappropriate’ time in an interview with HT. Excerpts:
How is the situation on ground?
I am really relieved. I feared many bodies would surface once the water receded. Worst is over. Sunny side of Kerala is up. After punishing the state badly for more than a week, the sun which had disappeared is back. The compassionate Kerala is at work. When I see materials pouring in from various parts of the state, I really envy the resilience of my state. (What is) gone is gone, we have no time to shed tears. Life has to go on.
So what’s next for the battered state?
We, both the state and the Centre, will have to re-build Kerala. The Centre is with the state and both will meet this challenge jointly. From day one, we have been assuring the state about this and we will keep our word. Did you ever see chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan complaining about the Centre or the latter blaming the CM? Look, it was the biggest rescue work in the history of the country. More than one million of our people are in camps. The timely deployment of central forces limited casualties to an extent. We both worked with clock-like precision. We have to swim together.
But the Congress says the Prime Minister’s relief was too little and the Centre failed to declare it a national disaster?
Even at the worst time, the principal Opposition party is playing dirty politics. What is a national disaster? There is no such thing. We told the high court it was a calamity of severe nature. What else you need? Rahul Gandhi, well, we can imagine he will make such statements because he is new to politics, but shocked to hear the same from a veteran like A K Antony who was the longest-serving defence minister of the country. Another demand was to hand over everything to the Army, it is not possible in a federal polity. You cannot make controversies just for the sake of controversies. It is not time for cheap politics either.
Does it mean fierce opponents like the CPI(M) and BJP are closing ranks?
No, I don’t want to talk politics now. My only concern is how Kerala can stand on its feet.
How will the Centre bail out Kerala?
See what the PM and HM have announced are interim reliefs. There is a protocol for announcing such aid and we are on it. Worst-affected sectors are houses and roads and the PM has already announced that the National Building Construction Corporation and National Highway Authority will help in both. What Kerala needs more are plumbers, electricians and carpenters to put life back into the state. The PM has already said the Centre would be there and I don’t have to repeat it frequently.