Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan finally responded to the widespread criticism against KK Shailaja being dropped from the cabinet this term. Speaking to the media, the CM said that it was in line with the CPI(M)’s policy of bringing in new faces. However, when journalists pointed out his own exemption from this rule, the CM’s response was “the party wanted me to continue”.
Ever since the cabinet of the new LDF government was announced, there had been widespread criticism over KK Shailaja being dropped from the cabinet. The former Health Minister received global praise for her handling of the 2018 Nipah virus and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. This time, she also won her seat, Mattanoor, by the highest margin seen in the history of the Kerala Legislative Assembly. Despite the huge mandate that she received, Shailaja has been dropped from the cabinet and has been made party whip.
"It is a valid question that is being asked on why I am continuing for a second term, while no other cabinet colleagues are there... it is because that was the decision of our party," Vijayan said, denying media reports that the national leadership was unhappy about the dropping of Shailaja. "The party decided that there should be a new team of cabinet ministers from the CPI(M) and it was adhered to. All the ministers from my party in the outgoing cabinet performed very well and hence to give exemption to any would not look good and hence, the decision was made," he added.
Asked if the absence of Shailaja would create any issues for the new government given the COVID-19 situation, he said, "The work that is going on is a collective one and hence there will be no issue if one person is not there." The new 21-member Vijayan ministry will be sworn in by Governor Arif Mohammed Khan at 3.30 pm on Thursday at the Central Stadium where 500 people will be allowed. This move has also come under criticism.
The Congress-led Opposition has decided to boycott the function in the wake of the COVID-19 spread and will watch the proceedings on television. But Vijayan said it was unfortunate because the opposition has a role and wished they had not boycotted it. The Kerala High Court, which heard a petition against the conduct of the swearing in this manner, asked the government to ensure that this is held with minimum participation and all COVID-19 protocols are followed.