Chandigarh: After a gap of 32 years, Union Territory of Chandigarh will have a separate administrator, a charge held by the Punjab governor since the terrorism days in mid eighties, with BJP leader K J Alphons, better known for his demolition drive in Delhi, given the responsibility.
The appointment of the 63-year-old former bureaucrat from Kerala and BJP executive committee member brings to an end Chandigarh's uniqueness in the country as having the governor of a neighbouring state as its administrator.
"I am happy that the prime minister has reposed faith in me to give such a position. It's a great city... it's a great job... It will be nice to be there. I hope to utilise this chance in a good way," he said on phone.
"I will be joining next week as Administrator of the Union Territory," he said.
"Though I don't know much about the city, but I have read a lot about it," Alphons said.
On being told that his appointment will reverse the 32- year-old system of Punjab governor being the Chandigarh administrator, he said "It's a political decision," adding, "Chandigarh is capital of two states and it requires a full time administrator."
A native of Manimala in Kottayam district in Kerala, Alphons, who had 27 years of bureaucratic experience, said, "The prime minister found me administratively compatible for the post of administrator."
"I will work for the development of the city," Alphons, who had visited Chandigarh only once, said.
One of the UPSC toppers of 1979, Alphons is known for his Delhi Development Authority (DDA) demolition drive in the 1990s. He left the IAS and joined BJP in 2011.
The practice of appointing an Administrator of the UT designated as "Chief Commissioner" continued up to May 31, 1984. Thereafter, on June 1, 1984, the Governor of Punjab took over the direct administration of the Union Territory as the Administrator.
"Chief Commissioner" was redesignated as "Adviser to the Administrator" from June 1, 1984. According to sources, the Parkash Singh Badal government will see this as not just a move to reduce the state government's stake in Chandigarh's functioning but also a step towards diluting its claim to Chandigarh.
Punjab's demand for Chandigarh had been relegated to the back-burner and was talked about only in rhetoric terms.
However, with less than six months to go for the assembly polls in the state, the issue has the potential to snowball into a major election issue and will give the SAD the much-needed political push in the run-up to the polls.
Meanwhile, Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh rejected the appointment, saying it was a blatantly unjust move aimed at snatching away Chandigarh from Punjab.
"You either make the central government, of which your party is an important constituent, rescind the move or you withdraw your daughter-in-law Harsimrat Kaur Badal from the council of ministers," he told Badal.
He said Congress will strongly protest and oppose the move in all available fora, including public and judicial, saying it not only subverts and undermines the Rajiv-Longowal Accord, but also threatens the hard earned peace in Punjab.