Author Laura Spinney, who wrote the article for the Guardian, also reacted to Mullapally's jibes.

Collage of KK Shailaja and Mullappally Ramchandran
news Controversy Saturday, June 20, 2020 - 20:29

Congress leader Mullappally knows a thing or two about rocking the boat, even if it means he may sink with it. Standing before a group of protesters, huddled too close to observe physical distancing during COVID-19, Mullappally Ramachandran, the Congress party’s president in Kerala, made a little speech on Friday. The speech, meant to inaugurate a day-long hunger strike by co-party member and Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala, however, turned controversial when he threw insults at KK Shailaja, the Health Minister of the state. 

The colourful terms that Mullappally levelled at KK Shailaja --  Nipah Rajakumari (Princess of Nipah), Covid Rani (Queen of Covid), Guest Artiste --  became a subject of controversy. And when he was questioned about it, Mullappally provided an absurd defence. He said that since others had called Shailaja a 'rockstar', which meant a 'modern dancer', there was nothing wrong with him using such epithets.

Don't worry, we're just as puzzled as you are.

KK Shailaja's handling of the coronavirus crisis in the state has been widely praised, including in the international media. Waving a copy of The Guardian news article about Shailaja that came a month ago, Mullappally said: “It says: How Kerala's rock star health minister helped save it from Covid-19 (the headline). What does it say? Kerala's rockstar! You would know better. I don't know about these modern dance forms. She's being called a rock dancer." For some reason, the politician is convinced that 'rockstar' means 'modern dancer'. 

A social media user pointed this out to Laura Spinney, The Guardian correspondent who wrote the story, and the journalist responded on Twitter. “If @MullapallyR wishes to politicise the story that's his prerogative. When I used the term "rockstar", I was quoting others. @shailajateacher has however been the subject of a feature film for her successful handling of another outbreak -Nipah virus: https://bit.ly/3ev7KoA,” Laura wrote.

 

 

But Mullappally is in no mood to retract his "rocking" speech. When asked about offering an apology, he retorted, “What are you talking? Apology, me? Nothing doing. Apology!”

He stood by what he said, Mullappally reiterated. “Someone has called her a rock dancer, while I called her a princess and a queen. What is wrong in that?” he asked, still preferring to use 'rock dancer' for 'rockstar', and shooting himself in the foot yet again.

Mullappally also claimed that he'd called the minister a "guest artiste" because she stayed at a guest house while those like him were on the ground with the people, during the Nipah virus crisis. 

However, several people have made their disgust known at Mullappally's distasteful remarks. Sajeesh, husband of nurse Lini who died during the fight against the Nipal virus in 2018, condemned Mullappally's verbal attack on Shailaja. He said that it was Shailaja who had contacted them during the tough times and not Mullappally. 

Read: Nurse Lini's husband criticises Mullappally, Congress workers protest against him

“I called him (Sajeesh) from the phone of Jithesh Muthukad, a cultural leader, to pay my condolences and he had then said that I was the first to call!” Mullappally claimed.

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