03 September, New Delhi
Bureaucrat-turned-politician K J Alphons Kannanthanam, who quit civil services to join politics in an attempt to learn human life beyond files, became the first Keralite to be inducted into the Narendra Modi Cabinet.
His clean image and vast experience in civil service have come heavily in his favour as the BJP top brass went in search of a suitable face from Kerala where the saffron party was still struggling to make in roads. This is also seen as a move to to bring Catholic Church in Kerala closer to the National Democratic Alliance.
Mr Kannanthanam rose to fame as Delhi’s Demolition Man when he was Commissioner of the Delhi Development Authority, having cleared DDA areas of encroachment removing around 15,000 illegal buildings. This got him listed in Time Magazine’s list of 100 Young Global Leaders in 1994.
Born on August eight, 1953 in a non electrified village, Manimala, in Kottayam District, his father was a world war II veteran, who became a school teacher after the war. His parents had nine children; they adopted two more from the orphanage, making it eleven.
He had his school education in the near by Malayalam medium village schools. While the High school head master had warned his parents that he would not make it through the Board examinations in the 10th class, the first miracle of his life happened, and he passed with an incredible 42 per cent marks.
The hard work began from there. He did not let destiny decide things for him any more. He taught himself English the hard way. He began to top in every class he went to. He began to get a prize in almost every event in the University. He became the best inter University debater in India.
He zeroed in on the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). He was one of the toppers of the IAS examinations in 1979. Even though he was an economist by training, he opted for history, sociology and philosophy and came out with flying colours. Once in the IAS, he decided that he was going to be a civil servant with a back bone. For 27 years, he lived with his back bone intact. Every job he held, he has made a remarkable difference.
With eight years to go in the IAS, he quit the IAS in 2006, and was elected a Member of the Legislative Assembly, from Kanjirappally in Kottayam District, Kerala, with Left support. He has been a voice for progressive change in the Assembly. On 24 March 2011, Alphons joined the BJP in the presence of party president Nitin Gadkari, after having resigned from his assembly seat a couple of hours prior.
He is also a practicing advocate in the High court and the Supreme Court of India.