Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI (M)) leader Pinarayi Vijayan took oath as Kerala’s chief minister for the second consecutive time, on May 20, days after the Left Democratic Front (LDF) registered a thumping victory in the state.
During the second term, Kerala’s LDF government will have 14 new faces from CPI (M), out of the 21 ministers in its cabinet.
Vijayan, who did not give the ticket to his party MLAs who have completed their term, proved his unprecedented popularity among Keralites once again with a historic mandate, winning 99 seats out of 140.
CM Vijayan has decided to drop all sitting CPI (M) ministers from his previous cabinet including A.C. Moideen, M.M. Mani, T.P. Ramakrishnan and Kadakampally Surendran. However, K.K. Shailaja’s omission from his team was the most shocking. As the state health minister, Shailaja gained huge appreciation for her management of the COVID crisis in Kerala.
Why Was KK Shailaja Excluded From Cabinet?
According to reports, the surprising move of not giving the ministers a chance at a second term was already decided within the party. CM Vijayan has clarified that the decision was made unanimously by the party as all senior leaders wanted to give way to new faces.
Defending the decision, party general secretary Sitaram Yechury also said that the decision of bringing new ministers into the cabinet, including the exclusion of Shailaja, was a collective choice.
Why The Fuss Over Shailaja’s Omission?
CM Vijayan and the CPI (M) have come under fire from the left leaning supporters and media since the party decided to side-line Shailaja, who won her seat with more than 60,000 votes in the recently concluded assembly election.
According to reports, she has gained more popularity among the people of Kerala since she became the health minister of the state, than CM Vijayan.
Shailaja, who was the key player in CM Vijayan’s previous cabinet, was widely appreciated for her handling of the Nipah virus outbreak in 2018, the floods in 2019, and the COVID crisis since March 2020.
Kerala’s health department was the first that decided to impose a partial lockdown in order to tackle coronavirus in the state, even before WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In June 2020, Shailaja was honoured by the UN for playing an unprecedented role in handling the world’s worst COVID crisis.
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The decision to drop Shailaja from the new cabinet has created uproar as many political experts believe that giving chance to a new face in place of an expert who has shown tremendous responsibility in managing the state’s crises, is a bad idea. Left-liberals, party workers and the media have criticised CPI (M)’s decision, saying they should reconsider especially at a time when COVID is at its peak.
Many Malayalam industry celebrities including actors like Parvarthy and Rima Kallingal have also urged the government to bring Shailaja back into the cabinet.
The decision has also drawn attention as CM Vijayan’s son-in-law, P.A. Mohammed Riyas, who is the national president of the CPI(M)’s youth wing Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), was included in the cabinet as the Minister for Public Works and Tourism.