KK Shailaja, health minister in the first term of the Pinarayi Vijayan government in Kerala has been denied a cabinet post this term.She and other ministers in the first cabinet, do not feature in the second, which is full of new faces. Instead she will be the CPI(M)’s whip in the Kerala legislative assembly. KK Shailaja will replace CPI’s K Rajan as the Chief Whip of the Kerala Legislative Assembly. So what exactly is a party whip and what will Shailaja teacher’s role in the second term be? Here’s an explainer:
The task of a party whip is to ensure party discipline in a legislature. This includes ensuring that members of a party vote according to the party’s decisions, and not based on individual ideologies or other factors. They are often termed as the party’s ‘enforcers’.
The Chief Whip is the eyes and ears of the leaders of the party so far as the members are concerned. It is a post that has been in place since the British colonial rule. The word 'Whip' is derived from the word “Whippers-in” employed by a hunt to look after the hounds and keep them together in the field. Party Whips are supposed to be similar disciplinarians, controlling the flock of members in their party.
In opposition parties, Whips supply their members with all important information and ensure the presence and participation of members of the respective parties in the House specially during important discussions and voting. They play an equally important role in maintaining the standard of debates at a high level in the Parliament/Legislatures. They also interact with the presiding officers and the secretariat of the concerned House on behalf of their parties and members to ensure efficient coordination of the complex requirements of parliamentary procedures, practices and conventions.
Shailaja teacher’s role as party whip will be a nominal one compared to her post as Health Minister in the previous term of the LDF government. A chief whip’s role, although an informal one, becomes prominent in cases where the ruling party has a wafer-thin majority. In such scenarios, the Chief Whip has to ensure that legislators toe the line and vote in favour of the ruling party in a Motion of No Confidence, to ensure that the government does not collapse.
However, in the present scenario, the CPI(M)-led LDF government enjoys a comfortable majority, even if one removes alliances from the equation. The CPI(M) and the CPI(M) have collectively won 79 seats, which is more than the required majority of 71 seats.