The exclusion of the outgoing Health Minister K.K. Shailaja from the Pinarayi Vijayan 0.2 Cabinet has raised eyebrows in political circles and outside for what many see as an unexpected political twist as her name figured prominently as the only Minister in the outgoing Cabinet likely to get a second term in the second Left Democratic Front Ministry.
The social media is abuzz with views and comments suggesting that the Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s decision not to offer a second term to Ms. Shailaja amounts to sidelining her. Some even dared to draw parallels between her exclusion from the second Pinarayi Vijayan Ministry and the experience of the late K.R. Gouri in 1987 when she had been projected as the next Chief Minister during the election campaign then but subsequently denied the top post.
Ms. Shailaja was in the global limelight for her handling of the pandemic situation and the earlier outbreak of Nipah in the State. Thanks to her popularity as Health Minister, she was envisioned future Chief Minister of the State by her admirers. Her electoral victory from Mattannur in Kannur with a record margin of over 60,000 votes was also seen as an endorsement of her popularity. Retired schoolteacher, Ms. Shailaja, popularly known as Shailaja Teacher, is a CPI(M) Central Committee member.
The CPI(M)’s position that she was excluded as part of the party’s policy to have a new team with only the Chief Minister given an exemption may not dispel sceptics within the party and outside. There will be no dearth of opinions strengthening the perception that her exclusion is more than a demonstration the paramountcy of the party over and above the stature of individuals its leadership is made up of. Even some senior party leaders, including Polit Bureau members, are reportedly unhappy that Ms. Shailaja was not given a second stint. There is also displeasure among party cadres in her constituency in her home district.
Senior party leader and Polit Bureau member M.A. Baby sought to put a lid on the brewing discontent on the social media when he told a TV channel that it was the party who had made her Health Minister and the next Health Minister decided by the CPI(M) would be no less efficient.