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‘Who visited Kerala’s flood-hit first?’ BJP finds a way to score brownie points

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Central tourism minister K.J. Alphons of the BJP takes on state finance minister Thomas Issac of the Left for not visiting his flood-hit constituency.

New Delhi: As Kerala reels under one of the worst floods in memory, the BJP might have stumbled upon an issue that could have major political ramifications in the state — who went to the flood-hit areas first to help affected people?

Union minister of tourism K.J. Alphons attacked ‘Marxist’ state finance minister Thomas Isaac for not visiting his constituency when the floods hit. Isaac has also made counter-allegations against the Centre, saying it was not giving enough disaster-relief funds to the state.

“It is after me and MoS home Kiren Rijiju’s visit to Alappuzha that the state government woke up. Let me ask you: Where was Isaac? It was his constituency and he should have visited it,” said Alphons, during an interaction at the Indian Women’s Press Corps in the capital.

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He did not stop there. He even said the visits by ministers of the Modi government were unprecedented, and that under the Congress-led UPA, which was supported by the Left for much of Manmohan Singh’s first term as Prime Minister, no minister had visited Kerala when any disaster had struck.

“Not a single Congress minister ever went to Kerala when disaster happened. Me and Kiren Rijiju went; it has never happened that the union home minister (sic) went to Kerala when floods came. Even when the Left was supporting the Congress government, no Congress minister had flown to Kerala,” he said.

Scoring brownie points

Sources in the party say Alphons and Rijiju’s visits have scored strategic points for the polls to come. “The BJP is striving to find its foothold in the state. The visits by the ministers when no one had visited have scored a brownie point among the people. This will certainly be raked up during the Lok Sabha polls,” said the source.

Alphons’s direct attack on Isaac was a clear sign of this points-scoring; he didn’t really mince his words.

“Thomas Isaac is complaining all the time. He is complaining for political reasons, (since) his is a Marxist government. There are guidelines as to what he gets out of the disaster fund from the Centre and state. It is very clearly laid out, and there is no question of the BJP government being biased for somebody or against somebody. Our teams are making assessment of the loss,” he said.

Also read: Narendra Modi’s 2019 headache will come from within the BJP and the NDA coalition

No such term as ‘national calamity’

Many Kerala politicians have called the floods a ‘national calamity’. The minister said there was no such term in the realm of disaster management, but used the opportunity to take another potshot at Issac.

“I would be willing to call it an international-level calamity. The problem with this terminology is that it does not exist. Isaac is a doctor and he better knows that. However, I have spoken to the Prime Minister about a special package for Kerala,” Alphons said.

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  1. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday announced an immediate assistance of Rs 100 crore for rain-ravaged Kerala even as the state estimated its loss at Rs 8,316 crore. After conducting an aerial survey of rain-hit districts of Idukki and Ernakulam districts along with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Union Minister of State K J Alphonse, Singh said, “I understand the sufferings of the people of Kerala from the present crisis. Since assessment of damage would take time, I am announcing an immediate relief of additional Rs 100 crore.”

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