Union Minister of State for Tourism KJ Alphons has called Varanasi, the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a "dirty city" which "needs to be cleaned." Alphons on Wednesday expressed serious concerns over the city's sanitation and cleanliness, along with the raging traffic which plagues the city. After the Union minister inspected the sewage plants and ghats in Varanasi with a team of Centre and state officials, he also discussed the extensive dirt and pollutants piling up in the Ganga.
A Financial Express report quoted Alphons as saying that Varanasi has the potential to attract many visitors and tourists, but the unclean surroundings have resulted in a significant drop in the number of tourists. India Today added that Alphons, who came to Varanasi on a two-day visit, also said that "only five lakh tourists are coming here and at Sarnath every year, which is very less. In the next two years, our focus is to double the tourists to at least 10 lakhs."
He also expressed concerns about Varanasi's narrow roads, which contribute to traffic jams. “The roads here are congested which results in traffic jams and is a cause of concern," news agency ANI quoted him as saying.
According to India Today, he also expressed concerns over people disposing of milk and flower petals in the Ganga while offering prayers. The Union Minister spoke of the government’s efforts to clean the river, saying that the administration had installed three sewage plants for this purpose. This contradicts previous reports of the success of the "Clean Ganga Mission", which was a dream project from Modi's parliamentary constituency.
The Union minister's comments on Varanasi are particularly embarrassing for Modi, who has been talking extensively about unprecedented development work in Varanasi. He has also been advocating to make the holy city like Kyoto, considered one of the most beautiful cities in Japan.
Financial Express reported that Alphons' comment has received backlash from the Samajwadi Party spokesperson Juhie Singh who said that neither the Centre nor the Yogi Adityanath government has done any development work in the prime minister's constituency. “Now the BJP minister has started criticising the ground situation in Varanasi. It is imminent now that the governments both at the Centre and in Lucknow have not done any development work and PM also knows about it," she said.
The BJP, however, defended Alphons’ statement saying that the situation in the city has improved a lot after Modi won the elections from there. Party spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi said “the Minister is from the south and the cities there are more developed. The situation in Varanasi has improved and people of the city are also acknowledging the changes".
Alphons has a history of controversial comments, where he has made statements about the BJP "not really having a problem" with beef still making its way into Kerala and Goa. He subsequently retracted that statement, telling foreigners to “eat beef in their own country and come here," according to The Wire. He has been very candid about his comments, telling The Times of India that he cannot be diplomatic, despite needing to do so.
Updated Date: Jun 06, 2018 12:47 PM