'Covid-19 Work Won't Suffer': Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan on Demands to Bring Back KK Shailaja

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Amid uproar over dropping former health minister KK Shailaja from the new Kerala cabinet, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the idea was to bring new people on board even as several previous ministers had given exemplary performance. The chief minister said the decision to induct new faces will not affect the efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Shailaja has been recognised for her effective handling of the pandemic in the state.

“Our position was that new people should come. All of the previous minister’s have worked well in their respective departments. Party decided no need of any exemption for anyone. Many deserved exemption, many worked exemplary well. The idea was to bring new people,” he said.

“The COVID-19 work will not be affected as it was a collective work,” he added. Earlier in the day, the CPI(M) said the dropping of the popular health minister was a “political and organisational” decision of the party and there would not be any re-look into it. CPI(M) state acting secretary A Vijayaraghavan said the leadership had already explained the decision taken by the party in this regard.

Hailed as “rockstar health minister” by the global media for her able leadership, effective crisis management and mature intervention in arresting the first wave of Covid-19 in the state, Shailaja’s non-inclusion raised many eyebrows cutting across party lines. Meanwhile, the social media platforms are still abuzz with comments and campaigns to call back the health minister, who was regarded as the face of the state’s fight against the COVID-19.

People including politicians, writers and celebrities have expressed shock and despair on the Left government’s decision to deny her a cabinet berth. Many netizens are using hashtags such as #bringourteacherback ,#BringBackShailajaTeacher to question the Left party’s decision and request it to bring her back to new ministry.

The second Pinarayi Vijayan government, which comes to power bucking the four- decade-old trend of alternate front rule in Kerala, will have a 21-member-strong cabinet with a handful of first-time legislators and three women members, the highest in recent time. Barring the Chief Minister, K Krishnankutty of JD-S and A K Saseendran of NCP, the Water Resources and Transport Ministers respectively in the previous LDF government, are the only old faces in the new ministry.

Both CPI-M and CPI, the major partners in the ruling coalition, opted not to retain any of their ministers from the previous government. The JD-S and NCP, which have one nominee each in the cabinet, have decided to give another chance to their outgoingrepresentatives.

Though the portfolios are yet to be announced by the ruling front, Vijayan late last evening handed over the letter electing him as the Parliamentary party leader to Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and staked claim for forming the new government. The new government would sworn in a function to be held at the Central Stadium here on Thursday in adherence with strict COVID protocol.

R Bindhu, who has served as the first woman Mayor of Thrissur, Aranmula MLA Veena George and J Chinchu Rani, who won from Chadayamangalam constituency, would be part of the the new Left government. Three women ministers is the highest in recent times in the state assembly, which had two and one respectively in the previous LDF and UDF governments. A former athlete, Chinchurani is also the first ever woman minister from the CPI in the state, party sources told PTI.

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