Lok Sabha 2019
From posting photos of himself sleeping in a flood relief camp to seeking votes in a wrong constituency, what is behind the many blunders of union minister Alphons Kannanthanam?
Image Courtesy: Alphons Kannanthanam FB Page

Last Friday, the Additional Sub Court at Paravur in Ernakulam saw an astonishing scene. BJP Rajya Sabha MP and Union Minister of State for Tourism Alphons Kannanthanam made a sudden appearance in the court room, supposedly to seek votes, accompanied by party leaders.

Kannanthanam – as he is known in Kerala – is the BJP candidate from Ernakulam constituency. He has been making news mostly for the wrong reasons. Visiting a court room to ask for votes seems to be the latest in a series of such incidents.

Courts, hospitals are usually places that politicians avoid during campaigns. Not that it breaches the model code of conduct or is illegal, but solely because of the sensitivity towards the activities that happen there.

At the time Kannathanatham entered the court, according to reports, the proceedings were about to start. Though the judge had not arrived, there were advocates and others involved in conducting cases present.

“Disrupting court procedure amounts to contempt of court. No politician would step into a court where a sitting is happening. It is indeed interference in court proceedings. It is wrong morally too, to walk into a court hall where the proceedings are about to begin,” Boris Paul, a lawyer practicing at the Kollam district court, says.

On March 23, Kannanthanam made news again when he boarded a KSRTC bus from the Cochin International Airport and reportedly got off near Aluva to meet the public and kickstart his campaign. It took a while before he realised that he was in the wrong constituency – Chalakudy. Even the news reports seem to pardon what he did as a funny, ignorable act. But we are bound to ask – is a candidate or the party team that schedules a candidate’s daily programme not aware of the demarcation of their constituency? Such a gross error is unheard of in the political history of the state.

Kannanthanam has been attacked for his missteps, mostly on social media, where he became the subject of several memes.

The first incident happened when the minister posted photos of himself sleeping in a relief camp during the Kerala floods last year. When he was called out for his insensitivity, he justified it saying that the photos were taken by someone from his social media team and posted without his knowledge.

“How can it all be attributed to naivety! After all, he is a Union Minister, a former IAS officer. He is pretending that he is naïve. There were a lot of leaders who slept at relief camps during that time, but the sensibility lies in not making it public, making it sound like something great was done. Today if he walked into a court room, what if he walks into the High Court for campaigning tomorrow,” a political analyst says.

The second time his thoughtlessness led to criticism on Facebook and Twitter was when he posted a photo of himself near the coffin of Vasantha Kumar, the Kerala jawan who was killed in the Pulwama terrorist attack. This time Kannanthanam defended it saying that the image was clicked by someone in the crowd and sent to his office.

“Whenever he is caught for his pettiness and realises that it didn’t have the intended result, he would soon put the blame on others, something not befitting a union minister and a well-educated man,” the analyst adds.

Kannanthanam is the second union minister from the BJP in the state, after party veteran O Rajagopal. Rajagopal was a union minister of state in the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee from 1999 to 2004. Rajagopal is the first and the only MLA for the BJP in the state.

If the disapproval against Kannanthanam is viewed as opposition to his party’s right-wing ideology by his political rivals, his party colleagues like Rajagopal might have also been subjected to the same. Rajagopal stands out for his integrity, which makes him a respectable figure in the state’s politics even among his political opponents.

“It is not foolishness, but show-off from a politician who clearly doesn’t know where to draw the line between do’s and don’ts,” the analyst says.

“I don’t even know what I should comment on all this,” laughs a jurist. “What Kannanthanam intends from this is purely media coverage. This shows a politician’s lack of stuff, where he fails as an administrator as well as a politician. Who would believe that a candidate, that too a well-educated union minister, doesn’t even know the boundaries of his constituency? Or that he would simply start campaigning without even having a discussion with the party’s campaign planning team? This is like making a mockery of the elections, which is a serious democratic process. It’s question of morality also. These kind of gimmicks are all the more precarious because no one finds any fault in it,” he says, requesting anonymity.

Retired Justice of Kerala High Court B Kemal Pasha says, “There could be at least a section of voters who would fall for all this. But while casting votes, people should be aware of what all the politicians have done when they were in power.”