Pratap Chandra Sarangi was the leader of the Bajrang Dal, a hardliner Hindu right-wing group, when a Hindu mob brutally killed Australian Christian missionary Graham Staines and his two children in 1999 in the state of Orissa (now Odisha), India.
Christian community leaders accused the Bajrang Dal of the killings, but an official inquiry found no evidence that any one group was behind the attack.
After a lengthy trial, Dara Singh, a man with links to the group, and 12 others were convicted in 2003. But the high court in Orissa commuted a death sentence for Singh two years later.
It also freed 11 others who were given life terms in prison, saying there was not enough evidence to support their convictions.
Mr Sarangi has given several interviews, in which he spoke passionately against what he called the “evil designs” of Christian missionaries who are “bent on converting the whole of India”.
He was also arrested on charges of rioting, arson, assault and damaging government property after a 2002 attack on the Orissa state assembly by Hindu right-wing groups, including the Bajrang Dal.
When India’s new cabinet was sworn-in on Thursday, the loudest applause was for a little-known, frail-looking man.
Pratap Sarangi was virtually unknown outside the state of Odisha (formerly Orissa), until he became a social media sensation this week.
A picture of the austerely-clad man leaving his bamboo hut to take the oath won him hearts in India, where rags to riches stories always strike a chord.
But despite his newfound popularity, Mr Sarangi has a chequered past which is a bolt on the face of secular fabric of the country and particularly minorities.