As Pinarayi Vijayan is inching closer to form a new government in Kerala after securing a landslide victory in the recently-held assembly polls, his decision over forming the cabinet has risen many eyebrows as his bid of inducting new faces to the cabinet will be bidding farewell to KK Shailaja, the health minister who was prominently known and praised for handling and containing the COVID-19 pandemic.
KK Shailaja was one of the reputed faces of Vijayan's previous cabinet to known nationally over her on-ground works and measures to curb the spread of the COVID-19 viral infection in the state. As the only female health minister in India, KK Shailaja has delivered a promising scale of efforts in addressing the crisis. Also known as Shailaja teacher, she has earned an immense reputation across and beyond the borders with several media quoting her as the slayer of COVID-19.
Shailaja was also instrumental in building what was called the 'Kerala Model' last year in containing the spread of the pandemic. Her work towards responding to the health crisis had supported Pinarayi Vijayan's government in the elections. In the recently-held assembly polls, KK Shailaja had won by over 60,000 votes from the Mattanur constituency.
She was the only candidate to win the polls in such a huge margin and the ruling LDF had secured a spectacular victory by defeating Congress and the BJP. The Pinarayi Vijayan's party has written a new history in Kerala by triumphing the election for the second consecutive time. The LDF front has won 97 seats in the 140-member assembly and as Pinarayi Vijayan has been preparing to form the new cabinet, he has decided not to induct Shailaja again into his cabinet.
It was speculated that Shailaja will retain the health ministry in the new government, Vijayan's decision had in a way shocked the state. A senior state leader said that the state cabinet will have all new ministers except for Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Speaking to NDTV, CPM MLA AN Shamsheer said, "No one from the earlier LDF Ministry will be part of the new ministry except for the Chief Minister. This is our party's decision."
He stated, "Only our party has the courage to do this and many top performers were also not allowed to contest elections. We want new faces." The second Pinarayi Vijayan government in Kerala will be swearing-in on May 20, nearly two weeks after the declaration of the election results. Earlier, CPI (M) acting state secretary Vijayaraghavan said that the new government will have a 21-member cabinet.
The ruling party has directed a twist by excluding KK Shailaja in the new ministry. Shailaja has vast experience in handling health crises than any other state health minister in India as apart from the COVID-19 pandemic, she had successfully handled the Nipah virus outbreak twice in 2018 and 2019. She was also been seen as the future Chief Minister of Kerala. Now, Pinarayi Vijayan has prepared to sacrifice her from the ministry at a high time when the state needs someone like Shailaja to tackle the second wave of the pandemic.
Honouring her work, the UK-based Prospect Magazine selected KK Shailaja as the Top Thinker of the year 2020. After winning the recently-held elections, Shailaja said that the decision that the people of Kerala were happy with the model of governance in Kerala due to which the party has been voted to power again and further said, "Whether I will be the health minister again is something that will be decided when a decision by the cabinet is taken. So, I cannot be sure at the moment. What I want to highlight is that we faced many challenges during our tenure. We had a devastating hurricane, floods, the Nipah virus, and COVID-19 pandemic but we rose to the occasion each time."