KK Shailaja's omission from Kerala cabinet sparks row; netizens compare her with late KR Gowri Amma
Some said that Shailaja's exclusion from the new Pinarayi Vijayan government despite doing a commendable job during the first wave of COVID-19, was similar to how the late CPM leader KR Gowri Amma was denied chief ministership in the last minute in 1987
The surprise omission of 'rockstar' health minister KK Shailaja from the new Kerala cabinet has sparked a debate with netizens comparing her absence with the late KR Gowri Amma, a firebrand Marxist who was once tipped to head the state but never did.
Having won international accolades for her deft handling of the first wave of Covid-19 in Kerala after it reported India's first case in 2020, Shailaja's surprise omission raised many eyebrows cutting across party lines.
However, Shailaja, described as a "rockstar health minister" by section of international media, said she was not disappointed at being denied berth in the new cabinet.
"There is no need to be emotional... I became the minister earlier because of the party's decision. I have absolute satisfaction in what I have done. I am confident that the new team can perform better than me," she said.
"Not the individual but the system is showcasing the fight against the pandemic. I am happy that I could lead the team," the leader added.
She was, however, entrusted with the position of party whip, a CPM statement said in Thiruvananthapuram, even as the party took the position that all members except the chief minister should be fresh faces in the new cabinet.
Among the fresh faces is Pinarayi Vijayan's son-in-law PA Mohammed Riyas. The state committee of the Marxist party nominated 11 freshers including two women as its ministers in the new government which would be sworn-in on 20 May at the Central Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram in adherence to COVID-19 protocol.
The state committee, which met at its headquarters AKG Centre, elected Vijayan to lead the party, the statement said, paving the way for his second term as the Chief Minister of Kerala.
Vijayan had scripted history in the 6 April Assembly polls by leading the ruling Left front to a consecutive term, bucking the over four-decade-old trend in the state of the people choosing between the Communists and Congress-led governments alternatively.
Though it was almost sure that no ministers in the previous Vijayan government would find a place in his new cabinet, Shailaja was expected to be given an exemption by the party, as the state is reeling under the second wave ofthe pandemic. She had won the polls with the highest margin of 60,963 votes from Mattannur in Kannur.
The media, during the election, had even projected her as the first woman chief minister of the state in future. Belying all expectations, Shailaja was not included in the new ministry.
A retired school teacher, she had done a commendable job in containing the covid surge in the state last year and also during the Nipah virus outbreak in 2018 and 2019.
Social media users responded sharply to the omission of the 64-year-old leader, popularly known as "Shailaja Teacher" or "Teacher Amma" among her admirers. They pointed out that it would not be good to change the minister as Kerala was witnessing an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases.
There were many who put up her photos as their WhatsApp status, in an apparent act of extending solidarity with her.
Some compared Shailaja being dropped from the cabinet with the manner in which late Gowri Amma was allegedly denied chief ministership in the last minute in 1987. Though projected as a chief minister candidate during the then elections, Gowri Amma was allegedly sidelined by the party which preferred EK Nayanar for the top post.
Though critics and media alleged that Shailaja was sidelined, CPM took the position that all ministers except the Chief Minister should be fresh faces in the new cabinet.
So had been the case with TM Thomas Isaac, finance minister in the outgoing cabinet, among others who had not been given a chance as they were elected twice consecutively, party sources said.
The dropping of Isaac, a known Left intellectual and a finance management expert, had also come as a shock for many including grassroot level party workers. Sources said the party wanted to evolve a second generation of leaders in parliamentary politics and give them more serious opportunities.
They also claimed that the new cabinet would be a right blend of experienced seniors and youngsters. Party central committee member MV Govindan, former Rajya Sabha MPs P Rajeev and KN Balagopal, senior leaders K Radhakrishnan, VN Vasavan, Saji Cheriyan and V Sivankuttyare among those inducted in Vijayan's second cabinet.
Veena George and R Bindhu, wife of CPM acting secretary A Vijayaraghavan, would be the women members inthe new ministry. Riyas, Vijayan's son-in-law and national president of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), also managed to find a cabinet berth.
The state committee meeting, chaired by senior leader Elamaram Kareem, picked MB Rajesh, who wrested the Thirthala seat from Congress' VT Balaram, as the party nominee for the post of Speaker. The meeting, attended by polit bureau members S Ramachandran Pillai, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, MA Baby besides Vijayan, also elected senior leader and former minister TP Ramakrishnan as the parliamentary party secretary.
Meanwhile, taking a cue from the CPM, ally CPI also nominated fresh faces to the cabinet. Newly elected MLAs K Rajan, P Prasad, J Chinchu Rani and GR Anil were its pick in the coalition government.
Senior party leader and Adoor MLA Chittayam Gopakumar has been nominated to the post of deputy speaker, the party said.
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