Former Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja's exclusion from the second Pinarayi Vijayan led cabinet, has sparked protests online as many registered their disappointment at the decision. KK Shailaja, a popular minister, had received international accolades for her work as Health Minister during the Nipah virus outbreak and COVID 19 management in the state.
"She was the best performing minister who won with the highest margin in this election. Throughout the five-year term she has performed consistently. If the CPI(M) really wants to offer continuity in good governance, not giving her (KK Shailaja) a fitting position is not the way to go about this. Also this decision comes days after the party leaders celebrated KR Gowri Amma, who passed away recently, shows that their actions do not prove the truth of their words. With such decisions, the government is erasing all the good will they earned - goodwill that KK Shailaja was crucial in creating,” J Devika, historian and feminist scholar tells TNM.
Political analyst J Prabhash said that the cabinet requires new faces as well as experienced persons, especially at this crucial time. "KK Shailaja teacher should be included in the cabinet for two reasons. She excelled in her performance during the last government. So it was a legitimate claim to have her in the cabinet. Secondly, the cabinet should be a happy blend of experience, novices, continuity and change because the state is moving through a critical phase in terms of the pandemic, financial constraints etc. So the cabinet requires experienced persons too," J Prabhash said.
Writer NS Madhavan also criticised the decision. He tweeted, "So is @shailajateacher a victim of the Bengal effect? In WB, the CPM got divided into 2: ministers and party workers. The former got fossilised and the latter withered away. So bringing in some new faces is a lesson well-learned, but while doing so don’t disregard people."
He also said that excluding KK Shailaja would create huge perceptual problems nationally and internationally, at a time when common people, as well as, health staff are already feeling orphaned. He also urged CPI(M) to rethink the decision.
Karur Congress Member of Parliament Jothimani tweeted, "A woman performing well and becoming popular is a crime? A male CM can be repeated but a woman minister can not. Can CPM explain the exclusion of Shailaja Teacher?."
"Are they making KK Shailaja CM? Then okay. No other reason is acceptable. Don't even try. Swearing in is going to be the rest of us just swearing at you," writer and journalist Nisha Susan wrote on Twitter.
Writer Manu Pillai said the decision had a whiff of sexismin it. "KK Shailaja deserves to be in the Kerala cabinet. Thoroughly disappointing news about her exclusion. I hope they reconsider. There is a whiff of sexism to this. Even with the criterion that besides the CM, the cabinet will be all new faces, I think Shailaja merits an exception." he said.
Writer and poet Meena Kandasamy said the minute women get more popular they are shown the doors. "Can anyone say they did not expect it? Women are great when they are accessories & shadows. The minute they show the slightest sign of overshadowing, they are shown the door. What gymnastics are comrades going to perform to explain why Shailaja isn't in? Unless it was her choice," she tweeted.
"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," actor Parvathy Thiruvothu wrote.
Actor Rima Kallingal recalled the famous statement of KK Shailaja in the Assembly "Penninentha Kuzhappam" (What is the problem being women?).
"Penninedha kuzhappam? If a landslide record win and 5 years of world class service can’t give you space in CPI(M) , what can? This mandate was for you K K Shailaja Teacher. For being the human face of this party. For your hard work," Rima wrote on Facebook sharing a picture of KK Shailaja with late veteran communist leader KR Gouri Amma, who was once ousted from CPI(M).