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KK Shailaja, Former Kerala Health Minister, Dropped from New Cabinet; Malayalam Celebrities Criticise Decision

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KK Shailaja, the former Kerala health minister who gained global recognition for her commendable work in tackling Covid-19, was dropped from the new Cabinet formed under the second term Chief Ministership of Pinarayi Vijayan.

Instead, Shailaja has been made the Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s whip, an official of a political party who will ensure the party’s discipline in a legislature.

On Tuesday afternoon, it was announced that the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala will have a new 21-member Cabinet who will be sworn in on Thursday. According to the party, older leaders including Shailaja, who has been the face of Kerala’s Covid-19 battle, were replaced in an effort to bring fresh faces into the ministry.

The party’s decision to exclude Shailaja was criticised on social media.

Shailja, the teacher-turned-politician was called ‘‘rockstar‘ by The Guardian, a UK-based news website which lauded her efforts in efficiently tackling the Covid-19 in the state. In October 2020, Prospect, a British magazine named Shailja as one of the 50 ‘Top World Thinker’ in Covid-19 age and appreciated her for flattening the virus curve and ensuring a low fatality rate in the first wave. The magazine said that Shailaja was the “right woman in the right place”. In November 2020, Vogue featured her on their list of ‘Women of 2020’.

Besides her success in tackling the state’s health emergencies, Shailaja scripted yet another history by winning the Assembly polls in the Mattannur constituency in April with a record-breaking margin of over 60,963 votes.

Perturbed by the party’s decision, members of the Malayalam film fraternity took to social media to urge the party to bring back Shailaja. 

Actor Parvathy Thiruvothu wrote, “While we are still fighting the second wave of COVID-19, @cpimkerala decides to relegate her to the role of party whip??! Is this for real? No justifications to this! The people chose their leaders and this sidelining puts the party in a very questionable position. What’s more important than immediate and able governance! Bring our teacher back!”

The actor also tagged the official Twitter handle of Kerala chief minister and said, “@CMOKerala We deserve better than this! #bringourteacherback One of the most able leaders of our times! A rarity, really! @shailajateacher led the state through the most difficult of medical emergencies.”

 

Parvathy also appreciated the state government’s work and their aid to the frontline workers and added that it was shocking and unacceptable that a crowd of 500 was deemed “not that much” by the @CMOKerala for the swearing-in ceremony on 20th.

“Given that the cases are still on the rise and we are nowhere near a finish line, it is an extremely wrong move especially when there is an opportunity to set an example by holding a virtual ceremony instead! I request the @CMOKerala to please consider this request and cancel such a public gathering. A virtual swearing-in ceremony, please!” she wrote.

Actor Rima Kallingal wondered “Penninentha Kuzhappam? (what’s the problem with women)” regarding a woman’s role in governance.

 

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A post shared by Rima Kallingal (@rimakallingal)

 

 

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A post shared by Rima Kallingal (@rimakallingal)

Actor Rajisha Vijayan said while it was good to give chances to new leaders, it should not be at the cost of leaders like Shailaja.

Besides, filmmakers Anjali Menon, Geetu Mohandas also took to their social media pages to share their views about this concern. Netizens compared Shailaja with the late leader and veteran CPI(M) member KR Gowri Amma who was denied chief ministership in 1987.

 

 

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A post shared by Rajisha Vijayan (@rajishavijayan)

 

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A post shared by Anjali Menon (@anjalimenonfilms)

 

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A post shared by Geetu Mohandas (@geetu_mohandas)

 

 

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A post shared by Ranjini Haridas (@ranjini_h)

 

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A post shared by RAMYA NAMBESSAN (@ramyanambessan)

 

In an interview with  NDTV, Shailaja had said: “It is a policy decision of our party. So according to that decision, I also decided to quit.”

Speaking about the reactions of netizens on social media, the 64-year-old minister had said, “That’s all emotional… Everyone… when they get a new responsibility they are freshers and newcomers. We have to give others a chance too. Here are so many workers in our party, if they get the opportunity, they will also work hard.”

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